Just when it seems like the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning is lessened because of the ending of the winter heating season, another story comes across to remind us that any time you operate an engine in confined areas, the risk exists.

According to a story in the Province News, on March 3, 2008 two men, from Fast Speed Carpet and Upholstery, went to a townhouse complex in Richmond, BC, Canada to clean the complexes carpet. The men told the complex manager that they would be done cleaning around 6pm. Around 8pm the complex manager found the two men dead.

WorkSafe BC is investigating these fatalities. Donna Freeman, manager of WorkSafe BC public affairs claims, “The Richmond fire department did detect the presence of carbon monoxide.” For the full story, click here.

The two men were cleaning carpet with their carpet-cleaning equipment, which was in the garage. The men were working in a “relatively closed” area with an “internal combustion engine.” The carpet-cleaning equipment released carbon monoxide gases that the men must have been exposed to, resulting in their death.

This is a consistent theme throughout the non-winter cases: an engine, exhaust, poor ventilation, death or serious injury. No engine can be operated without proper outside air ventilation. It isn’t just cars that can cause danger in a garage. Just because it isn’t the main part of the house, doesn’t mean it isn’t enclosed or that the exhaust from it can’t leak into a house.

Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is very dangerous because it is colorless and odorless. Victims do not know that they are being exposed to a hazardous gas. Carbon monoxide can be produced in nearly every home. It can be produced while charcoal is being burned on a grill or inside a home, from cars that are still running that are left in the garage and fuel-burning appliances (space heaters, furnaces, etc).

Not everyone with CO poisoning dies. Warning symptoms include: headaches, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea and dizziness. For more information on symptoms http://codamage.com/carbon_monoxide_poisoning/carbon_monoxide_symptoms.html and the Consumer Products Safety Commissions warnings at http://www.cpsc.gov/CPSCPUB/PUBS/466.html

One of the most important things for people with CO exposure who survive to remember is that the symptoms of this can get worse over time, for as long as 40 days. This syndrome is called Delayed Neurological Squeal (DNS). For more on DNS, click here.
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