Carbon monoxide is a deadly gas that can cause serious short and long-term health problems. Unfortunately, the danger is even more serious since the gas has no smell, taste, or color to identify it by, so people can be exposed to it for long periods of time without realizing that anything is wrong.
A recent accident at an Illinois ice-rink only further illustrates the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning, and the need for increased safety measures concerning the gas. According to the Chicago Tribune:
Thirteen people were taken to area hospitals after they were overwhelmed by carbon monoxide fumes at [an ice rink] near Glen Ellyn, according to the Glen Ellyn Volunteer Fire Company.
Another 29 were treated at the scene and released. None of the injuries was considered serious.
Fire crews responded to the ice rink about 5:30 p.m. after a number of people complained of headaches, dizziness and vomiting, fire spokesman Craig Eldridge said.
Several hundred people were inside the rink for a teen ice hockey tournament, he said.
As of now, the cause of the carbon monoxide leak is still unknown.
While early reports do insist that all those affected by the gas are only suffering short-term affects, it is important to be aware of the long-term health effects of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Carbon monoxide works by changing the level of oxygen in the bloodstream, which results in cellular death and organ damage. The most serious affect of carbon monoxide poisoning is death, which can occur gradually or within minutes, depending on the concentration of the fumes being inhaled. The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include:
Red colouration of skin due to lack of oxygen
Shortness of breath
Nausea and vomiting
Muscle fatigue and general fatigue
Loss of consciousness
Short of death, carbon monoxide poisoning can also cause long-term damage to the brain, which thus cause memory, coordination, and vision impairment; headaches; and behavioral and personality changes. Carbon monoxide can also have an adverse affect on other parts of the body, such as the heart and bladder. While many of these symptoms may wear off after long periods of time, damage to the brain and some other organs is often permanent.
The silver lining in this ice-rink incident is that there were many people that all experienced the same symptoms at the same time, which alerted authorities to the problem relatively quickly. Since carbon monoxide is a "silent killer", many people often are killed by it simply because they were exposed to for long periods of time it in their home without realizing it. They write off the symptoms of headaches or nausea as being incidental, never knowing that these are warning signs of a much graver issue.
If you begin to experience any of the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, or if multiple members of your household start experiencing these symptoms, you should immediately get your house checked for a gas leak. It is difficult to do on your own, but a professional will be able to help you. It is also important for you to educate your friends and family about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning, so they can help themselves, and then pass the knowledge on. Knowledge is power, especially against a "silent killer" like carbon monoxide.