Initiative 'CO makes K.O.' | Hall 13, CO1

At INTERSCHUTZ 2022, the Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Initiative will present "CO Makes K.O." (Hall 13) will provide information about the dangers of the deadly gas and prevention options.

"Carbon monoxide cannot be seen, smelled or tasted. Affected people don't notice when they inhale carbon monoxide because there are no typical symptoms such as coughing or shortness of breath," says Norbert Schaaf, deputy spokesman for the initiative. "That's exactly what makes CO so dangerous. And it can occur even in rooms where you don't suspect a CO hazard." Just a while ago, scientists from the Institute for Fire and Disaster Protection in Heyrothsberge near Magdeburg proved in a study that CO penetrates even through walls without any problems. Various building materials were examined for this purpose.

CO warning devices can save lives

The results are a stark reminder for both end users and emergency responders. That's because the study says, for example, that firefighters who are not equipped with self-contained breathing apparatus must wear CO warning devices at scenes of operations in buildings. At the same time, the study advises installing CO warning detectors in homes.

The possible causes of elevated CO concentrations in rooms are many and varied. Possible causes include technical defects, lack of maintenance, or tampering with firing systems. But CO can also be released into the room air by clogged chimneys and exhaust systems of gas boilers, oil-fired heaters or stoves.

According to observations by rescue workers, severe CO poisonings have also been noticeable in recent years in shisha bars with inadequate ventilation, as well as in increasing numbers from charcoal grills, mushroom heaters, or gasoline-powered power generators used indoors.

The Heyrothsberg study explains that CO molecules have a diameter of only 0.318 nanometers (one nanometer corresponds to 0.000000001 meters). According to the scientists, this would explain why people with CO poisoning can be found at emergency scenes, even in rooms that are located away from CO sources. "For us, the study provides an important impetus to further intensify our educational work," says Norbert Schaaf.

Incidentally, experience in recent years shows that CO poisoning does not only occur more frequently during the heating period. "Even in the summer months, fire departments and rescue services have to move out to rescue people with symptoms of poisoning from houses and apartments," emphasizes the initiative for the prevention of carbon monoxide poisoning. "For example, on very hot summer days, it can happen that the exhaust fumes from fireplaces are not hot enough to completely dissipate compared to the outside air.

Symptoms and consequences

These are the first symptoms of poisoning:

  • nausea
  • dizziness
  • headache
  • later, heart palpitations, impaired consciousness and muscle weakness are added
  • Often, these manifestations prevent sufferers from leaving the room and getting to safety.

    The long-term effects of carbon monoxide poisoning are also largely unknown. For example, ten percent of all poisoned patients suffer a heart attack within 56 months, while about one-third of moderately to severely poisoned patients experience cardiac dysfunction. Psychoses and even paralysis and Parkinson's disease are also common. A striking feature is an increased long-term mortality of about 8.4% compared to the control group with 1.6%.