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Carbon Monoxide Kills: Change Your Clocks & Batteries, Save Your Life

Dr. Kausik Kar, M.D., is the Medical Director of The Hyperbaric Unit at Westchester Medical Center.
Dr. Kausik Kar, M.D., is the Medical Director of The Hyperbaric Unit at Westchester Medical Center. Photo Credit: Contributed

Health and Safety Tips From Westchester Medical Center Each year when we change our clocks to Daylight Savings Time, New Yorkers are encouraged to also take the time to change the batteries in their smoke detectors. In addition to your clocks and smoke detectors, you should also check and change the batteries in your CO detector. This year Daylight Savings Time begins at 2:00 AM on March 8th. Like a smoke detector, a CO detector can save your life, but only if it’s working .

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, each year in the United States hundreds of people are killed as a result of non-fire related Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning associated with consumer products. It is the most common type of fatal poisoning in the United States. In addition, tens of thousands more will be treated in emergency departments as a result of accidental CO poisoning.

CO is a commercially important chemical that is formed in many chemical reactions. However it is also deadly and is often referred to as the “silent killer.” It is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, highly toxic gas produced by the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels - gas, oil, coal, wood and other petroleum products used in boilers, engines, oil burners, gas fires, water heaters, solid fuel appliances and open fires. CO is also formed as a result of the decomposition of many organic materials.

Dangerous levels of CO can accumulate when, as a result of poor installation, poor maintenance, failure or damage to an appliance in service, the fuel is not burned properly or when rooms are poorly ventilated and the Carbon Monoxide is unable to escape.

Carbon Monoxide can produce a wide range of physiological effects on people exposed to concentrations as low as 50 parts per million,” said Dr. Kausik Kar, M.D., Medical Director of The Hyperbaric Unit at Westchester Medical Center. “Symptoms may range from mild headaches and dizziness to more serious symptoms including nausea, lethargy and even convulsions.” Unfortunately many times the more mild symptoms are often attributed to illnesses such as the flu and left untreated, resulting in the more serious complications and even death. “If you believe you have a CO leak in your home or that you are suffering from the effects of CO poisoning, leave your home immediately and call 911,” adds Dr. Kar.

In addition people with heart or respiratory problems as well as infants, small children, unborn children and their expectant mothers are at an increased risk for suffering from the affects of CO poisoning at a much quicker rate than others in the household and they may be the first to show symptoms.

Carbon Monoxide enters the lungs via the normal breathing mechanism and displaces oxygen from the bloodstream, interrupting the normal supply of oxygen in the blood which puts the functions of the heart, brain and other vital organs of the body at risk.

While a CO detector may help to alert you to the presence of elevated CO levels in your home it is just as important to make sure that plumbing, heating and other gas powered equipment in your home is properly maintained and serviced regularly by a licensed professional. CO detectors are available locally in many different stores and can be installed in just a few minutes using only small hand tools.

Change your clocks, change your batteries, save your life.

Daily Voice produced this article as part of a paid Content Partnership with our advertiser, Westchester Medical Center

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