Carbon monoxide, or CO, is a toxic, colorless, odorless gas. CO is given off whenever fuel or other materials are burned. CO is found in fires and combustion fumes, such as those made by cars and trucks, portable generators, stoves, gas ranges, and heating systems.
Information and Resources
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- What is carbon monoxide poisoning?
CO fumes can build up in places that do not have a good flow of fresh air, such as a garage or a house with closed windows and doors. Breathing high levels of CO can cause severe illness or death in a matter of minutes.
Although carbon monoxide poisoning can almost always be prevented, every year, more than 500 people in the United States die as a result of accidental, non-fire exposure to this toxic gas. And, every year, thousands more people across the United States require medical care for carbon monoxide poisoning.
- What are the symptoms of CO poisoning?
The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. Breathing high levels of CO can cause loss of consciousness and death. Unless suspected, CO poisoning can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms mimic other illnesses. People who are sleeping or intoxicated can die from CO poisoning before ever experiencing symptoms.
- How does carbon monoxide poisoning happen?
Red blood cells pick up CO more easily than they pick up oxygen. If there is a lot of CO in the air, the body may replace oxygen in blood with CO. This blocks oxygen from getting into the body, which can damage tissues and result in death.
Breathing high levels of CO can cause severe illness or death in a matter of minutes.You may be exposed to unsafe levels of CO as the result of:
- * Using poorly maintained or unvented heating equipment;
- * Warming up vehicles in garages or other enclosed spaces;
- * Using a gas stove or oven to heat the home;
- * Leaving chimneys clogged or blocking heating exhaust vents;
- * Running generators or gas-powered tools in enclosed areas or near windows, doors, or vents;
- * Using a propane camp stove, heater, or light inside a tent; and
- * Engaging in activities near boat engine exhaust outlets.
- Who is at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning?
All people and animals are at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning. Unborn babies, infants, and people with chronic heart disease, anemia, or respiratory problems are generally more susceptible to its effects.
- What are the health effects of carbon monoxide poisoning?
Exposure to moderate and high levels of carbon monoxide over long periods of time has been linked with increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Survivors of severe carbon monoxide poisoning may suffer long-term neurological problems.
The health effects of long-term exposure to low levels of CO are less well understood. Better tracking of carbon monoxide poisoning and exposure may provide opportunities to learn about the effects of low-dose exposures.
- How can I prevent carbon monoxide poisoning?
There are several things you can do to prevent and ensure you and your family are safe from carbon monoxide poisoning. Breathing high levels of CO can cause severe illness or death in a matter of minutes.You may be exposed to unsafe levels of CO as the result of:
* DO have your heating system, water heater, and any other gas, oil, or, coal burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.
* DO install a battery-powered CO detector (or electric-powered device with battery backup) in your home, near all sleeping areas. As with smoke detectors, replace the battery when changing the time on clocks each spring and fall. If the alarm sounds, leave your home immediately and call 9-1-1.
* DO seek prompt medical attention if you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning and are feeling dizzy, light-headed, or nauseous.
* DO NOT use a generator, charcoal grill, camp stove, or other gasoline or charcoal burning device inside the home, basement, or garage; near a window; or under a tent.
* DO NOT run a car or truck inside a garage attached to your house, even if the garage door is left open.
* DO NOT burn anything in a stove or fireplace that is not vented or may be clogged.
* DO NOT use a gas cooking range or oven to heat your home.
Carbon monoxide is a concern with home appliances, boating, after a disaster, or around small gasoline-powered tools. The CDC offers basic information about each of these issues.
- What is the relationship between carbon monoxide poisoning and
Fumes created by the combustion of gas to run items like cars and trucks, small gasoline engines, stoves, lanterns, burning charcoal and wood, can contain carbon monoxide. As the fume fills an enclosed environment, it can poison an individual.
- How can tracking carbon monoxide poisoning improve public health?
Tracking carbon monoxide poisoning will provide a better understanding of the health consequences of carbon monoxide poisonings across the country and track the impact of public health policy aimed at preventing carbon monoxide poisoning.
- What are the benefits of tracking carbon monoxide poisoning?
The EPHT program wants to measure carbon monoxide poisoning in a standard way over time to better understand the impact of CO across Wisconsin and to track the impact of public health policy aimed at preventing carbon monoxide poisoning.
The EPHT program uses several sources to obtain data about carbon monoxide poisoning. These sources include hospital and emergency department databases, death certificate data, and poison control center call records.
- Where can I find more about carbon monoxide poisoning?
- Below are resources to additional information about carbon monoxide
- * Wisconsin Department of Health Services
- * Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
All external hyperlinks are provided for your information and for the benefit of the general public. The Department of Health Services does not testify to, sponsor, or endorse the accuracy of the information provided on externally linked pages.
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Last Revised: December 05, 2012
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Data:
Access the carbon monoxide poisoning hospitalization and emergency department data in the WI EPHT online database. Review the Data Details below to learn about interpreting the data.
What is the data source?
The website provides data about asthma hospital admissions and emergency department visits. The source of these data are the Wisconsin Hospital Association Information Center, Inc.
How does WI EPHT measure carbon monoxide poisoning?
The WI EPHT website includes the following measures:
- Annual number of carbon monoxide poisoning hospitalizations and emergency department visits, by age, gender, race/ethnicity, and geography
- Monthly average, maximum, and minimum daily number of carbon monoxide poisoning hospital admissions and emergency department visits
- Daily number of carbon monoxide poisoning hospital admissions and emergency department visits
- Annual unadjusted (crude) rate for carbon monoxide poisoning hospitalizations and emergency department visits, for all ages, by gender, race/ethnicity, and geography
- Annual age-specific rates of carbon monoxide poisoning hospitalizations and emergency department visits by gender, race/ethnicity, and geography
- Annual age-adjusted rate for carbon monoxide poisoning hospitalizations and emergency department visits for all ages, by gender, race/ethnicity, and geography)
Why are data about hospital admissions and emergency department visits important for tracking carbon monoxide poisoning?
Since a registry for reporting carbon monoxide poisoning cases does not exist, there is a need to find other ways to measure the burden of carbon monoxide poisoning in Wisconsin. The use of International Classification of Disease (ICD) coding allows for the identification of patients with carbon monoxide poisoning in the hospital admissions and emergency department visits datasets.
What are some considerations for interpreting the data?
While significant effort is made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the data, there are limitations that are listed below:
- Hospital admission and emergency department visit data will not include people who experience symptoms but are not seen in the emergency room or admitted to the hospital. This includes people who do not receive medical care, those whose care does not result in hospitalization, and victims who die in settings such as ambulances, nursing homes, or at home.
- These data do not include hospitalizations and emergency department visits among residents of Wisconsin in facilities in other states (such as those that border Wisconsin).
- These data do not include inpatient admissions or emergency department visits at hospitals owned by the federal government, such as Veterans Administration hospitals.
- The death certificate dataset may be missing a small number of cases where the decedent is a Wisconsin resident but died in another state.
- Cases that call the state’s poison center may or may not be treated by medical personnel, and thus it can be difficult to confirm the poisoning.
There are many factors that can contribute to a disease and should be considered when interpreting the data. Some of these include:
- Demographics, e.g., race, gender, age
- Socioeconomic Status, e.g., income level, education
- Geographic, e.g., urban vs. rural
- Changes in the medical field, e.g., diagnosis patterns, reporting requirements
- Individual behavior, e.g., diet, smoking