DefinitionCarbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless, poisonous gas that can cause sudden illness and death if inhaled.
NumeratorUtah Poison Control Center (UPCC): Numbers of humans exposed to carbon monoxide
Utah Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS): Number of households reporting at least one carbon monoxide detector in their house/current residence
DenominatorUPCC: Utah resident mid-year population estimates
BRFSS: A weighted (by household) value that allows the estimate to be based on the total number of households in the state
Data Interpretation IssuesData from the Utah Poison Control Center (UPCC) may be missing Utah residents that were exposed to carbon monoxide (CO), but called another state's poison control center.
The UPCC data include all calls in which actual or suspected human contact with CO was recorded. Exposed animals and out-of-state residents were excluded. Additionally, calls that were not exposure related (e.g. seeking CO education materials) were removed.
Lastly, the CO detector data are only available for 2012-2013 because the Utah Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) did not include CO detector questions on surveys in previous years.
Why Is This Important?Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning can happen quickly and without warning. This cause of poisoning or death is almost entirely preventable if proper measures are taken, such as always having a working carbon monoxide detector in your home or work.
CO is found in combustion fumes such as those produced by cars and trucks, small gasoline engines, stoves, lanterns, burning charcoal and wood, gas ranges, and heating systems. Wherever there is a flame or combustion, deadly carbon monoxide gas can be produced. CO from these sources can build up in enclosed or semi-enclosed spaces making the air poisonous for people and animals.
CO poisoning is especially of concern after emergency situations such as power outages or natural disasters because of emergency equipment used that give off CO. Generators, grills, camp stoves, gasoline equipment, propane, natural gas, or charcoal-burning devices should never be used inside a home, basement, garage, camper, or even outside near an open window.
CO poisoning can also occur outdoors and has been reported while boating. In this case, CO poisoning is attributed mostly to generator exhaust that builds up inside and outside a boat in areas near exhaust vents. Dangerous concentrations of CO can accumulate within seconds; due to the possibility of rapid CO accumulation while boating, it is recommended that all boat owners schedule regular engine and exhaust system maintenance for their boats and install and test daily a battery operated CO detector.
CO poisoning is almost entirely preventable. To protect yourself from CO poisoning, use equipment that emits CO responsibly and install a properly working CO detector in your home. These can be purchased at most grocery and home improvement stores for a relatively low cost. Additionally, it is crucial to check and maintain your CO detector including, but not limited to, changing batteries and checking its power source.
What Is Being Done?Organizations, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), offer free resources that provide information about CO poisoning and prevention. Also, health promotion and community outreach activities are available to educate the public about CO poisoning and prevention. However, it is primarily up to the individual to practice behaviors that prevent CO poisoning such as installing working CO detectors and using equipment that emits CO gas properly.