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I feel strongly about Carbon Monoxide poisoning, yesterday was one of those days I just wanted to unwind from the stress of the day. All I wanted to do was ‘shower’ and take a chilled bottle of drink; while watching my favorite TV series. 

Just before I headed to the bathroom, I decided to browse through one of my social media apps and there it was, staring me in the face. 

The environmental issue that gets me enraged, somewhere in Nigeria everyday people die as a result of the fumes released from generators. 

This particular story was about a couple in Edo state, who decided to leave their generator on, against the wish of their children. 

Apparently, the children had warned the parents about leaving the generator on overnight but their warnings fell on deaf ears…. typical of some Nigerian parents. 

There has been numerous incidences of entire families dying of carbon monoxide suffocation and it is high time people are more vigilant of this environmental issue.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odourless but very toxic gas, it originates from incomplete combustion of incinerators, blast furnaces, outdoor grilling, bush burning, motorised vehicles and generators. 

The color changes from colorless to black smoke (soot) when the combustion is incomplete; as a result of the use of a carbon material such as: diesel fuel, tobacco, wood, natural gas etc.

CO poisoning in Nigeria has some common sources:

  1. Bush burning;
  2. Fumes from vehicle exhaust pipe;
  3. Generator exhausts;
  4. Outdoor cooking (firewood, barbecue, suya etc.) and;
  5. Indoor cooking stove.

Studies show that about 50% of CO poisoning occurs within the walls of the home and 20% in the business environment. 

When CO enters into the bloodstream through the nostrils, it mixes with the red blood cells that transport oxygen (Haemoglobin) to from carboxy haemoglobin. 

This causes oxygen to be displaced and prevents blood from moving around the body, causing oxygen shortage in the body which leads to various health effects and ultimately death. 

According to the World Health Organization, the combination of noise , stress and heat can contribute a great deal to the health effects of carbon monoxide poisoning.

I’d leave you with a few facts about CO poisoning

  1. When an amount of 12,800 pm is inhaled, one can die within three minutes.
  2. In fire outbreaks, 90% of deaths are caused by carbon monoxide poisoning.
  3. Firemen stand a higher risk of CO poisoning.
  4. In Nigeria, CO poisoning occurs more through generator fumes (indoor) than vehicle exhaust (outdoor) because of the enclosed space.
  5. Each person is exposed to amounts of CO daily,but it varies and inhaling excess is what leads to poisoning.
  6. People with heart conditions or breathing problems e.g. asthma patients are more susceptible to CO poisoning.
  7. Cigarette or Tobacco smoking is a source of CO poisoning. Studies show that a person that smokes a pack daily will have a CO level of about 20 ppm. However, the CO level returns to normal after a day or two.

Effects of carbon monoxide 

Carbon monoxide is a dangerous gas and there are some health effects that occur over both a short period of exposure or long, such as:

  1. Cerebral edema (swelling of the brain)
  2. Nausea& vomiting
  3. Abnormal reflexes
  4. Convulsion& seizures
  5. Headaches
  6. Confusion& memory loss
  7. Tachycardia…abnormal heart beat
  8. Perinatal death…stillbirth/ early neonatal death
  9. Hypoxia

The ban of vehicles releasing carbon monoxide on the road would have been my first solution, but we both know our Fatherland and how difficult it would for that bill to pass in senate.

Also, stable power supply to residences would definitely curtail the use of generators in the country; but again we know that still nothing but a fantasy.

This leaves us with just one option….stay safe and look out for yourself and your loved ones.

Avoiding Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

 Here are some ways to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning:

  1. When experiencing CO poisoning symptoms such as dizziness, nausea and headaches, quickly get into a location with fresh air and do the breathing exercise (breathe in and out).
  2. Install CO detector in offices and the house, to provide warning for CO increased levels.
  3. Good maintenance of appliances and gadgets that use fossil fuels is important, in other to avoid improper combustion. Service cars and generators regularly.
  4. Avoid leaving a car on in a closed space, can lead to suffocation.
  5. Never put a generator inside the house, always leave it outside; A distance of about 25 feet from the house. If possible, turn it off before going to bed.
  6. In extreme cases of health failure, call the emergency line.
  7. Do not use charcoal barbecue grill inside the house.
  8. Asthma patients should always go out with their inhalers, no matter how mild it usually is. 

Extra Tip: Use a damp towel to cover your nostrils when stuck in traffic with a car releasing CO.


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