Nearly 200 people in the United States die from accidental carbon monoxide poisonings every year, and thousands more are hospitalized. The problem is often traced to leaky heating systems or badly-ventilated generators.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, and deadly poisonous gas that is emitted by burning fuel sources, such as wood, coal, charcoal, oil, kerosene, propane, and natural gas.
CO is also produced by equipment powered by an internal combustion engine, such as cars, portable generators, lawn mowers, etc. In 2005 alone, 94 people died from generator-related CO poisonings, including 47 during power outages during severe weather.
What is Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?
When you breathe carbon monoxide instead of oxygen, your vital organs are deprived of the oxygen that cells need to function and survive. Without oxygen, cells begin to die within minutes. Exposure to high levels of CO can rapidly cause loss of consciousness and death.
Symptoms typically become apparent when levels of CO exceed 70 parts per million (ppm). The symptoms of mild CO poisoning are similar to the flu, which can result in tragic deaths — especially in slowly-developing residential poisonings.
Symptoms of mild or moderate poisoning may include:
- Shortness of breath
As levels of CO exceed 150-200 ppm, symptoms become progressively more severe:
- Problems walking
- Loss of consciousness
- Muscle weakness
For people who survive carbon monoxide poisoning, the long-term side effects often include brain damage Millions of brain cells die for every minute they do not have oxygen, resulting in permanent cognitive problems. These complications may include memory loss, confusion, decreased processing speed, problems with multi-tasking, attention-span, chronic headaches, trouble sleeping, and more.
$28.2 Million Awarded to Wyoming Woman Injured by Carbon Monoxide
October 2014 — The Billings Gazette reports that a federal judge has upheld a record-setting jury verdict in favor of a 23 year-old woman who nearly died from carbon monoxide poisoning after the furnace leaked at her apartment complex. Click here to read more.
$35 Million Awarded to Restaurant Workers Exposed to Carbon Monoxide
July 2010 — A jury in Baltimore awarded nearly $35 million to 20 workers at Ruth’s Chris Steak House after they were exposed to toxic levels of carbon monoxide from a leaking boiler, according to the Daily Record.
Dozens of Elementary School Students Injured by Carbon Monoxide Leak
December 2012 — NBC News reports that a carbon monoxide leak from a faulty furnace at Finch Elementary School in Atlanta, Georgia caused 43 students and 6 staffers to be taken to the emergency room. The carbon monoxide reading was 1,700 ppm. Click here to read more.
Texas Oil Workers Awarded $1.3 Million for Carbon Monoxide Brain Injury Lawsuit
June 2014 — Valley Central reports that a jury in Texas has awarded $1.375 million to four electricians who suffered hypoxic brain injuries after they were trapped in a room that was accidentally flooded with carbon monoxide by another crew working on the fire-safety system. Click here to read more.