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Three campers’ family event became tragic when they were exposed to carbon monoxide fumes while relaxing inside their camper which was mounted on the bed of the family pick-up truck. Faulty air conditioner wires are believed to have caused toxic fumes to be released into the camper.

For information on this story please see:
http://www.courierpress.com/news/2008/aug/06/carbon-monoxide-suspected-deaths-three-illinois-re/

It is important for campers to remember to periodically check all fuel lines for leaks. Line leaks can potentially release toxic fumes that can be deadly. Also it is important to be cautious when using propane appliances and generators, which release carbon monoxide that can be deadly.

Campers should follow the fourteen steps to help eliminate the risk of carbon monoxide exposure. The fourteen steps were listed on a previous blog and can be read at:
www. http://codamage.blogspot.com/

Please remember that once you have taken the important steps to ensure that your your camper is carbon monoxide free, you must also be mindful of other fumes that you can be exposed to from other RVs and pick-up trailers. A week ago we blogged about a person that died from carbon monoxide fumes that were believed to have come from a neighboring RV.

Most parks have “no generator” zones which can make campers feel safer.

Prior to using your RV, remember to inspect all lines and hoses for cracks or leaks. If you are using a generator, make sure it is working properly and get a carbon monoxide detector. These tips will ensure that you leave a happy camper and return a happy camper.

Yesterday we talked about the fourteen things that RV users can do to prevent being exposed to carbon monoxide poisoning. Today we are going to review what symptoms a person with carbon monoxide might have.

Since, carbon monoxide is odorless, tasteless and invisible it is important to identify symptoms if you are exposed. There are three main levels of exposure mild, moderate, and severe.

If a person is mildly exposed to carbon monoxide they will experience headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness and blurred vision. But “mild exposure” may not mean that there can’t be significant brain or other organ damage. The term “winter headache” is used because people get headaches from faulty heating systems in the winter. But as the last few weeks of news have shown, you can get a “winter headache” in the summer as well as the “winter heart attack”, too. http://codamage.com/carbon_monoxide_poisoning/carbon_monoxide_unexplained_heart_attacks.html

If a person is moderately exposed to carbon monoxide they will experience confusion, syncope (which is partial or complete loss of consciousness without being fully aware of where you are – or fainting), chest pains, dyspnea (shortness of breath), weakness, tachycardia (rapid heart beats), tachypnea ( abnormally fast breathing) and rhabdomyolis ( a condition in which the muscle cells break down and release contents of muscle into the bloodstream)

If a person is severely exposed to carbon monoxide they will experience palpitations ( an abnormal awareness of beating of the heart whether it is too slow, too fast, irregular, or at its normal frequency), dysrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms), hypotension (low blood pressure), myocardial ischemia or angina (a painful heart condition caused by lack of blood flow to heart), cardiac arrest, noncardiogenic pulmonary edema, seizures and comas.

It is important to not wait until your symptoms worsen if you experiencing any of these symptoms. If you believe you have been exposed please go to the emergency room and get checked. But a so called “clean bill of health” from the ER may not be an all clear. Delayed symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure can lead to serious permanent damage that can affect your heart, brain and other parts of your body.

For more information on carbon monoxide delayed effects please read:
http://codamage.com/carbon_monoxide_poisoning/carbon_monoxide_delayed_onset.html

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.

One of the greatest risks of carbon monoxide poisoning is staying at hotels and ski lodges. Sadly, most states do not mandate CO detectors in all hotel rooms. The solution? A portable carbon monoxide detector. Where to get one? Finding one is as easy as typing in “portable carbon monoxide detector” into Google, but for those who want to save the step, Click here.

But as most home detectors are something you can simply plug into a wall socket, there may be no need for a so called portable detector. Buy one more home detector and carry it with you and plug it in each time you stay. But if you are like me, you may wind up leaving it in a hotel room, once a month. The advantage of the portable units is that perhaps you can leave it in a conspicuous place so it is the first thing you pack.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water… Not the water, but today’s news reports highlight another springtime hazard, construction sites. According to WHDH news in Boston, a construction worker was overcome today from what was thought to be carbon monoxide poisoning. Latest reports are dismissing the threat of carbon monoxide, but the risk factors could certainly exist. For the complete story, click here. http://www1.whdh.com/news/articles/local/BO76638/

In this incident, the workers was working on a two mile long tunnel. Thus, the threat for a poorly ventilated carbon monoxide producing machine exists. What if there was no engine? Well, the human body is such a machine too.

As the weather improves, the impression might be that risk of Carbon monoxide exposure is lessening. While in terms of total numbers such might be the case, spring and summer do come with significant risk factors for CO poisoning. Seriously, the spring and summer risk factors are often the kind that carbon monoxide protectors are not available to warn of exposure.

The first risk factor that comes to mind is severe weather. With severe weather, comes power outages and ad hoc attempts to replace electrical power with either flame generated light or portable electric generators. While candles aren’t too dangerous, any other flame inside can come with significant CO exposure.

Electric generators are a particularly dangerous risk because not enough care is taken to make sure that the engine that generates such power, if properly vented. For potential risk factors from portable generators, click here.

Here are the basic rules when using portable generators:
Here are the basic rules to avoid CO exposure when using a portable generator:

Always use generators outdoors.

Keep generator exhaust away from air that flows into a building. But also make sure it is away from windows, doors and vents. The venting part can be critical. Many of the tragic stories we have heard this winter was from indirect exposure because an engine source (like a generator) was too close to an air intake vent.

Garages, basements, crawl spaces, are not OUTDOORS.

Follow manufacturer’s instructions. This presumes you can still find the instructions. Hopefully they are printed right on the generator itself. If not, look them up online. Keep in mind that exhaust that can get into your living area can kill you.

Use CO detectors, and make sure they are working, that the batteries are replaced when needed. Remember that smoke detectors, are not CO detectors. You can have CO exposure with no smell of smoke and without a smoke detector going off.

Next Post: Other Warm Weather risk factors.

I have several times on this blog preached about the delayed effects of Carbon Monoxide Exposure, “Delayed Neurological Sequelae” or DNS, but a recent study confirms that an early study that cardiac or heart damage from carbon monoxide exposure can occur years down the road. Click here for more on DNS.

While the study comes from an unusual source in the field of Medicine, Iran, the basics of the study seem legitimate. For more on this story, click here.

The suggestion of such potential raises continuing challenges for those in the field of trying to recover compensation for those in the civil justice arena. If someone has a heart attack or cardiac damage years after exposure, what is thought to be the limitation of time in which one can sue, may have run. However, in most states, the statute of limitations does not run until there has been a discovery of the damage from the wrongdoing. While this is not a clear cut situation, it may in fact be possible to bring a lawsuit many years after the exposure, if it can be clearly demonstrated that there was wrongdoing involved; that the heart disease could be logically linked to the carbon monoxide exposure; and that the plaintiff had no notice of the actual injury which manifested itself down the road.

Our law firm had an excellent result this year in a case where a seizure disorder manifested itself after a nominal settlement of an auto accident case. We settled for a mid six figure amount, even though the case wasn’t filed until 4 years after the accident, and 3.5 years after the case was initially settled for a sum around $25,000.

The critical issue to remember when there is someone with carbon monoxide exposure is that WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) does not apply. Even the neurological symptoms can take 40 days to mature, and heart disease potentially long term. If you have been exposed, monitor your health closely, long term. That monitoring should looks especially closely at not just the brain, but the heart as well.