many people get ill in the winter and attribute it to cold or flu. They may not realize their home heater or office furnace is the cause of their symptoms. Germs may not be to blame at all
Los Angeles, CA (PRWEB) January 16, 2015
On January 13, 2015, NBC News reported three people in a Long Beach, California apartment were found dead of what authorities suspect is exposure to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide. Across the country, at a bank in West Virginia, eight people were given medical attention after suffering exposure to high levels of the gas, according to a local NBC affiliate's story published on January 12, 2015 ("Furnace suspected in carbon monoxide leak that sickened 8 in Beckley"). With at least two more months of winter in store, more tragedies and serious injuries related to carbon monoxide poisoning are likely to occur in communities across the nation in the near future.
Every winter, as the temperatures drop nationwide and heaters and furnaces are put into service, thousands of people suffer the effects of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. According to a Center for Disease Control public service announcement, approximately 500 people each year die and thousands more need emergency treatment as a result of exposure to the odorless and colorless gas that is emitted from engines and appliances that use fossil fuels. Furthermore, many people suffer from exposure to CO without ever being diagnosed.
Since the toxin is hard to detect, non-fatal exposure to the gas can slowly work its way into the victim's body and cause catastrophic injury. Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney Patrick Bailey, of Bailey & Partners, has been focusing on CO-related litigation for the last several decades and has represented numerous clients who have suffered as a result of CO exposure. "Victims can breathe it in just like air. It has no color, no smell, no taste. While extremely large amounts of the gas can be fatal in a fairly short period of time, the gas can be very dangerous in small amounts. A furnace in an enclosed space may have a small leak and victims can breathe in the toxin for months or years without realizing it."
Even a small amount of the gas can be dangerous. CO poisoning can have symptoms that are often mistaken for a cold or flu: nausea, shortness of breath, head ache, extreme fatigue, aches and pains. Unfortunately, unlike the typical cold or seasonal flu, the impact from CO poisoning can be long term. Bailey says that "many people get ill in the winter and attribute it to cold or flu. They may not realize their home heater or office furnace is the cause of their symptoms. Germs may not be to blame at all."
Dr. Lindell Weaver of the Hyperbaric Medicine Center at Intermountain Medical Center and Professor in the University of Utah's School of Medicine is a nationally recognized leader in the diagnosis and treatment of CO poisoning. In his New England Journal of Medicine article from 2009 called "Carbon Monoxide Poisoning" he affirms that, each year, approximately 50, 000 people are treated for symptoms related to CO poisoning. Many more people may have symptoms but remain undiagnosed because the damage can be subtle and cumulative. Weaver describes the complex physiology of CO poisoning and why it is so dangerous: a person may believe they are breathing clean air but the CO is not providing the vital components necessary for healthy respiration. Irreversible brain damage, permanent loss of physical strength and other symptoms may develop slowly but the results can be catastrophic.
Bailey argues that "even in non-fatal cases, the damage from CO poison can be catastrophic. Careers can be ruined because the victim may lose certain abilities. Victims' personalities can change dramatically as a result of even the most subtle alterations in the brain. This is why it is so important to make sure appliances are well-maintained and the public is educated about the risks and steps they can take to prevent poisoning."
Bailey mentions a recent Utah case in which renters at an apartment alerted their landlord that their CO monitor had been activated. According to the story from the December 16, 2014 Herald, "BYU students have brush with CO poisoning," a maintenance worker responded to the call and told the residents "I don't smell anything."
"This example is a simple illustration of such a large problem: too many people are unaware that carbon monoxide has no smell or color. Thankfully the fire department was called and discovered high levels of carbon monoxide in the apartment before anyone was killed. The water heater was leaking carbon monoxide and was repaired. However, those residents may still suffer the long-term impact of exposure because the problem was not addressed immediately."
Bailey says that "apartment buildings, college dorms, hotels, schools, single family homes...virtually any enclosed space is vulnerable. Every one of them should have a carbon monoxide detector installed just like a fire alarm. The dangers are serious even if less obviously dramatic when compared to a fire. But we are surrounded by CO. We must respect that and be aware of the dangers and how we can protect ourselves. If a negligent landlord or other responsible party fails in their duty to protect the public, Bailey & Partners can fight for compensation on behalf of victims, but," Bailey concludes, "preventing these tragedies in the first place should be everyone's goal."