Federal health officials indicate that nearly 400 people died due to carbon monoxide poisoning in 2015, with most of those deaths happening during the winter, when Americans commonly use gas heaters inside their homes that may emit the toxic fumes.
Carbon monoxide is often described as the “silent killer”, as the gas has no smell, taste, color or other irritating factors that may allow individuals to detect a leak. Following prolonged exposure, symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure may result in mental confusion, vomiting, loss of consciousness and quickly cause death.
According to data published this month in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), unintentional exposure to carbon monoxide resulted in 2,244 deaths between 2010 and 2015, with 393 occurring in the last year alone.
The report also confirms that the highest numbers of carbon monoxide deaths, 36%, occur in December, January and February, likely due to heating efforts to stave off winter temperatures.
The study did not include intentional carbon monoxide poisoning deaths, such as suicides.
The data was taken from the National Vital Statistics System’s mortality public use data files for 2016.
Carbon monoxide gas leaks are a leading cause of fatal poisonings in the United States, due to the difficulty detecting the extremely toxic gas, which can quickly overcome an individual and result in permanent brain damage.
Individuals exposed to carbon monoxide typically experience symptoms similar to the flu. For individuals who survive exposure, many are left with devastating brain damage from carbon monoxide, which can impact them for the rest of their lives.
In many cases, long term injury and death from carbon monoxide exposure is often preventable with the use of a working detector or alarm, which can provide advance notice to occupants of a building about the presence of the gas.