Imagine a killer perfect enough to travel through the corridors of your home completely undetectable to the eye of its prey. It can’t be heard, can’t be smelled, and before you or anyone in your household realizes that something is wrong, it could already be too late. Over ten thousand people fall victim to carbon monoxide poisoning and over one thousand five hundred die per year of this gas so deadly, it is referred to as the “silent killer”(“What Is Carbon Monoxide?”). Carbon monoxide, or CO for short, is a flammable, colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that is produced during incomplete combustion of fuel and it’s ability to do harm resides within the lack of knowledge and understanding of this gas by society. To remain safe from carbon monoxide poisoning, one must comprehend the causes of carbon monoxide, where it can be found, and how to avoid and deal with contamination.
Carbon itself is one of the most abundant elements in the universe. It can be found in the sun, the stars, comets, and the atmospheres of most planets. There are close to ten million known carbon compounds, many thousands of which are vital to the basis of life itself. In normal combustion, the output would yield two oxygen molecules in combination with one carbon molecule to from carbon dioxide, or CO2. If not enough oxygen is present when the combustion occurs, one molecule is taken in by the carbon molecule to produce carbon monoxide (CO).
When a person takes a breath of air, normally it is absorbed through the bloodstream and the oxygen molecules in the air attaches to the hemoglobin and is then carried throughout the body (“Frequently Asked Questions About Carbon Monoxide Detectors”). When carbon monoxide is inhaled, it takes the place of the oxygen molecules in the hemoglobin instead because of it’s higher affinity to hemoglobin than oxygen, producing a toxic compound known as carboxyhemoglobin (“What Is Carbon Monoxide?”). This, in turn, restricts the capacity of blood to carry oxygen throughout the body suffocating it. A human body deprived of oxygen becomes very ill and cannot function correctly.
Not only has carbon monoxide been accredited for taking life involuntarily but unfortunately also finds itself as an alternative method for suicide (Doug). The availability of this method, along with the speed and lack of discomfort, makes it a liable source for anyone sadly seeking to commit suicide. Occurrences of this phenomenon include enclosing an automobile within a garage to let the exhaust fill the room. This lets an adequate amount of CO to build up. Another way would be to burn a charcoal grill within a well insulated area, again a garage could be used.
The first step in avoiding carbon monoxide poising is being familiar with exactly where CO can be produced. This includes any place that undergoes combustion. Around the home carbon monoxide can be produced in fuel-fired furnaces, gas water heaters, fireplaces and woodstoves, gas stoves, gas dryers, charcoal...