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Events of carbon monoxide poisoning still appear in the news, despite the availability of detectors. Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless gas produced by incomplete combustion of carbonaceous material. CO at sufficiently high concentrations can kill.

Commonly overlooked or misdiagnosed, CO intoxication often presents a significant clinical challenge. Most fatalities result from fires, stoves, portable heaters, and automobile exhaust. These often are associated with malfunctioning or obstructed exhaust systems and suicide attempts. Other sources of CO include cigarette smoke, vented gas water heaters, kerosene space heaters, charcoal grills, hibachis, Sterno stoves, propane-fueled forklifts, gas-powered concrete saws, inhaling spray paint, indoor tractor pulls, and swimming behind a motorboat. Children riding in the back of enclosed pickup trucks seem to be at particularly high risk for CO exposure.

Industrial workers at pulp mills, steel foundries, and plants producing formaldehyde are at risk for exposure, as are personnel at fire scenes and individuals working indoors with combustion engines or combustible gases. OSHA investigators should be looking out for workers, but everyone needs to protect their home.

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