The Silent Killer

Carbon Monoxide GasDuring a recent summer, a family of three happily set out on a trip, taking with them their thirteen-foot camping trailer. When they reached their destination, they set up camp and, at the conclusion of the day, went to bed in the trailer. Because of the cold mountain air they left a coal brazier burning while they slept. This was a serious mistake.

Although they had opened a roof vent and a louvered window for ventilation, carbon monoxide gas accumulated. When the mother awoke early in the morning she felt nauseated and exhausted. She went to awaken her twelve-year-old daughter, but was shocked to find the child dead. Carbon monoxide, the silent killer, had been at work. It had nearly killed the father and mother as well. Both had to be hospitalized.

Too many people fail to realize that smoldering charcoal can kill even in a ventilated room. Because they cannot smell or see this gas, they fail to be alert to a dangerous situation. A similar peril exists in automobiles.

It is not uncommon to read news reports about people found dead in parked cars, killed by carbon monoxide from their automobile engines. Some had died in airport parking lots where they were keeping warm by running the engine of the car while waiting for someone. This story has also been repeated at drive-in movies when the car’s motor was used for heating the car.

Carbon monoxide gas is formed by the burning of any substance that contains carbon. The gasoline used to run automobiles, the fuel used for heating homes and even the tobacco in cigars and cigarettes give off carbon monoxide when burned. Ample ventilation is essential.

According to a report made by a panel of the U.S. Public Health Service under the leadership of Dr. Daniel Horn, there are surprisingly high carbon monoxide levels in rooms filled with tobacco smoke. Thus smokers damage not only their own health but that of others.

When a person breathes in carbon monoxide gas, the ability of the blood to carry oxygen from the lungs to the tissues of the body is seriously impaired. The hemoglobin in the blood has an attraction that is a hundred times greater for carbon monoxide than for oxygen. As a result, the tissues of the body become starved for oxygen. The body experiences a loss of energy and a crippling of mental and physical reactions.

Carbon monoxide is said to become dangerous when it reaches a level of ten parts per million parts of air, a level that is not unusual in congested city traffic. At this concentration harm can be done to a pregnant woman and persons suffering from bronchitis, emphysema and chronic heart disease. Since a damaged heart may not be able to make compensation for a reduced oxygen supply in the blood, death can result. A mixture of 600 parts of carbon monoxide per million of air, such as can easily accumulate in a camping trailer with a coal brazier, can kill in the space of three hours.

Although coal braziers, automobiles and stoves are commonplace and perform services for man, it should never be forgotten that they also harbor a deadly killer. It is vital to be aware of the danger and to take precautions.

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