All About Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

By Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.


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Carbon monoxide poisoning is a silent killer. It has no distinct odor, color, or taste, so there’s no way to know it is around unless you feel sick or a carbon monoxide detector goes off. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning range from headaches, nausea, vomiting, confusion, memory loss, disorientation, balance problems, and dizziness.

Brain damage can worsen in the days and weeks following the incident. DNS can result in any number of neurological or behavioral symptoms, such as memory loss, confusion, seizures, urinary incontinence, loss of bowel function, disorientation, hallucinations, psychosis, balance problems and dizziness.

Brain damage can occur in particularly vulnerable parts of the brain such as the hippocampus. Carbon monoxide robs the body of oxygen and leaves a toxin behind. The hippocampus, which transfers information into long term memory, is located at the end of the oxygen cycle to the brain, putting it most at risk of damage.

Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs when a fuel burning appliance, such as a hot water heater, oven, or furnace, is not ventilating or maintained properly. It can happen in any enclosed space, such as a garage, a home, restaurant, hotel room, or airplane. When this happens, the installing contractor and/or the contractor responsible for maintaining the HVAC system has committed a life-threatening negligence action. in all likelihood, the building owner will also face some responsibility.

Most think that carbon monoxide is only a risk factor in the winter, but here are some examples of carbon monoxide poisoning this summer:

A carbon monoxide disaster was averted in July 2016 when a plane to Denver had to be landed after nearly a dozen passengers fell ill. It appeared that the passengers did not have their carboxyhemoglobin levels tested when they should have. This is the evidence of poisoning. If elevated, the passengers could have been at risk for delayed neurological sequelae (DNS).

Roofers warned of a carbon monoxide threat after a hailstorm in August 2016 in Colorado Springs. The hail could have dislodged the ventilation caps on the piping. If this occurred, it could block the toxic carbon monoxide gas from escaping and could cause poisoning.

A Panera Bread store in Seekonk, MA had a possible carbon monoxide poisoning. Hyperbaric oxygen treatment is the best for carbon monoxide poisoning. The benefits include increasing oxygen in the blood, accelerated elimination of CO in the blood, prevention of degrading lipids in the brain, and preservation of ATP levels in tissue exposed to CO. Treatment with hyperbaric oxygen reduces the risk of delayed neurological sequelae. Lipid peroxidation in the brain relates to delayed neurological sequelae.

In August 2016, two people died from a carbon monoxide poisoning in Glendale Heights, a northwest suburb of Chicago. Every year more than 400 people die from non-fire related carbon monoxide poisoning, according to the CDC. More than 20,000 visit the emergency room due to carbon monoxide, and more than 4,000 are hospitalized.

More recently, a wedding reception was evacuated in Madison, WI due to a carbon monoxide leak from a generator used to power the band. More than two dozen were taken to the hospital. A generator should never be operated indoors or in any enclosed space, such as a garage or crawl space.



Gordon Johnson

Attorney Gordon Johnson is one of the nations leading brain injury advocates. He is Past-Chair of the TBILG, a national group of more than 150 brain injury advocates. He has spoken at numerous brain injury seminars and is the author of some of the most read brain injury web pages on the internet.

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