Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
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Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: The “Invisible” Killer
Carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas that is produced by burning fuel, such as gasoline, wood, paper, natural gas, or kerosene.
Cars, trucks, boats, recreational vehicles, fireplaces, wood stoves and pool heaters all pose a potential risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Cooking or heating appliances when kept in good working condition produce little carbon monoxide (CO). However, improperly operating appliances, along with faulty camping equipment and outdoor gas stoves and malfunctioning kerosene space heaters, can produce fatal CO concentrations.
Know the Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
[This information is largely based on U.S. government publications]
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas. It is therefore difficult to detect and it is not always evident when it has become a problem in the home or elsewhere. Sometimes, victims with a mild-to-moderate carbon monoxide toxicity problem will find they feel sick while they spend time at home, but may well feel a bit better outside in fresh air. If other members of the family have recurring bouts with flu-like symptoms while fuel-burning appliances are being used, your house should be immediately checked for carbon monoxide by a professional.
Low levels of carbon monoxide poisoning can be confused with flu symptoms, food poisoning or other illnesses and can have significant long-term health risks if left untreated. Moderate levels of CO exposure can cause death if the following symptoms persist for a long measure of time. High levels of CO can be fatal causing death within minutes. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include the following:
- Shortness of breath
If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning has occurred:
- Get the victim or victims into fresh air immediately.
- If affected persons cannot get out of the house, then open all the windows and doors. Any combustion appliances should be turned off.
- Get anyone subjected to carbon monoxide exposure to a hospital emergency room as quickly as possible. A simple blood test can determine if carbon monoxide poisoning has occurred.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Deaths and Lawsuits
It is estimated that each year carbon monoxide poisoning kills 5,000 persons in the U.S. and injures over 10,000 persons.
Many of these deaths are due to faulty or defective products, including lawn mowers, gas stoves, hot water heaters, furnaces, fireplaces or snow blowers.
Exposure can occur even in the outdoors. Cases have been reported of children who suffered carbon monoxide poisoning from exposure to boat and jet-ski exhaust fumes.
Persons who have suffered brain damage, or the families of loved ones who have died, have filed lawsuits against the product manufacturers and/or property owners for the injuries they suffered.
Legal Rights of the Injured
Claims by persons injured due to carbon monoxide poisoning have included claims for negligence, strict liability for failure to warn, and strict liability for a defective product.
Damages sought in these cases include general and compensatory damages for:
- Past and future physical pain and suffering, mental anguish and physical impairment;
- Past and future medical, incidental and hospital expenses;
- Past and future loss of earnings and earning capacity; and
- In cases of wrongful death or serious injury, punitive damages.
Please note that we wish to and can only help those already diagnosed with major carbon monoxide-related injuries (or the families of victims killed by carbon monoxide). Those without major CO2 related injuries may wish to visit the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Medline Plus section on carbon monoxide, or the Health and Safety Executive pages on domestic gas health and safety.
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Lieff Cabraser mass tort and injury practice partners Sarah R. London, Wendy R. Fleishman, and Mark P. Chalos.
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