Carbon Monoxide and Poisonous Fumes

  • By: The DIG for Kids
  • Time to read: 4 min.
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Poisonous fumes and gases are dangerous because they are invisible. You can’t trip over them and you can’t lock them away. In your home, things you take for granted may be harmful. For instance, a car running in a closed garage will rapidly fill with carbon monoxide.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning and Faulty Equipment

Dangerous levels of carbon monoxide can also develop due to faulty or poorly maintained equipment, such as boilers, or by turning fuels in an enclosed space. Carbon monoxide is absorbed through the lungs into the blood and affects the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can include nausea, dizziness, headaches, drowsiness and confusion. It can result in loss of consciousness and even death.

People often assume that it is only gas-fuelled heating systems that cause carbon monoxide poisoning, but it can happen with any fossil fuel system (including both the appliance and the flue), if the system is faulty or the room is not properly ventilated

Anyone who suspects that they or someone else are affected by carbon monoxide poisoning should leave the area immediately and seek medical advice.

Service Appliances Regularly

Have the boiler and gas fire serviced regularly by a registered tradesman to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, and make sure that bedrooms, in particular, have adequate ventilation. Consider installing carbon monoxide detectors or alarms in your home. Similarly, do not block air vents, flues or chimneys (usually done to prevent draughts in older houses) and don’t have indoor fires or stoves without proper ventilation to the outdoors, such as open windows to create a draft.

Leaky gas vents, wood, coal or kerosene stoves that are not working properly, mixing bleach and ammonia together while cleaning (which gives off chloramines gas), and strong fumes from other Cleaning Products and solvents are all potentially deadly, and should not be used in the room without ventilation.

In fact, it’s a good idea to get used to having the windows open while you use any appliance that creates smoke or uses gas, or when you are cleaning. Many of the chemicals used in domestic cleaning products, such as chlorine, ammonia and bleach, can cause respiratory problems if you inhale them and can even burn the inside of your nose.

Chlorine Dangers

Chlorine, commonly used to disinfect swimming pools, is a health hazard and may trigger Asthma In Children. Among adults it has been linked with other health problems, including bladder and rectal cancer, and may increase the risk for coronary heart disease.

A 2003 Belgian study published in the British journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, suggested that an irritant released when chlorinated water reacts with urine, sweat or other organic matter from swimmers increases the risk of asthma among children who regularly swim in public pools.

The researchers took blood samples from 226 children who regularly swam in indoor pools. They found that the youngsters had accumulated high levels of an irritant called trichloramine, a substance believed to set in motion a process that destroys the cellular barrier that protects the lungs. Other blood samples showed that levels of trichloramine were elevated even among people who merely sat at the side of pools and didn’t swim.

Inhaling chlorine fumes that accumulate in and around swimming pools is unhealthy. If you, or your children, use chlorinated pools, consider wearing a mask and snorkel to protect eyes from the irritating effects of the chlorine in the water. After swimming, leave the pool area and inhale fresh air to flush the gas out of your system. Shower quickly and thoroughly to wash it off your skin.

Lock it Away!

You might be aware of the danger of chemicals and can read the ‘Hazard’ label on the bottles, but small children can’t – so make sure anything that is hazardous is locked away so that it can’t be sniffed, let alone drunk or eaten.

And never store dangerous products in everyday containers such as milk bottles or drinking glasses. How many times has a paint brush been left sitting in a jam jar of white spirit? A child may associate these with food or drink and try them out by smelling or tasting them.

Over cleaners

Oven cleaner is one of the most toxic products people use. They contain lye and ammonia, which eat the skin (notice how they always recommend you wear gloves), and the fumes linger and affect the respiratory system. Then there is the residue that is intensified the next time you turn your oven on, so use sea salt and baking soda instead!

What if I Think My Child has Inhaled Poisonous Fumes?

If you suspect that someone has inhaled poisonous fumes, first assess the situation and your risk. If possible, remove the person from the contaminated area before starting first aid treatment. Avoid inhaling fumes yourself by taking two or three deep breaths before you enter the area and holding your breath until you are clear.

If the person is not breathing, Begin CPR (if you know how to do so – if not, be prepared by reading one of the leaflets St John Ambulance, the British Red Cross and the NHS publish on their websites). If the person is breathing and conscious, cover him or her with a blanket and call 999.

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