The burning of fossil fuel releases a lot of byproducts and many of them are harmful and toxic to the environment as well as humans. One such silent assassin coming out of the car exhaust is Carbon Monoxide. It is a colourless, odourless gas which can kill an adult human instantly, and is way more harmful to children. Recently, there has been a string of events reported where the car occupants died because of the Carbon Monoxide poisoning. Let’s see how it can poison people and how it can happen in a car.
How does Carbon Monoxide kill?
Carbon Monoxide is a dangerous gas that is colourless, odourless and tasteless. The gas does not survive for long in the atmosphere and breaks down to form a part of ground-level ozone. Carbon Monoxide can affect any vertebrate living being and is highly toxic. If inhaled, carbon monoxide combines with haemoglobin (which carries the oxygen from lungs and carbon dioxide to the lungs) and makes it ineffective to do its normal function. The inhalation of carbon monoxide results in the formation of carboxyhemoglobin, which reduces the flow of oxygen to the body parts and causes severe seizure and eventually, death can occur.
World over, many people die from carbon monoxide poisoning. The latest one happened in the UK where a couple were driving in a modified Ford Fiesta. The carbon monoxide leaked inside the car’s cabin and the young couple died unaware. In India, there was an incident reported in 2014 when 3 businessmen died of carbon monoxide poisoning.Around the world, there are many instances of carbon monoxide poisoning that happens due to various reasons.
Around the world, there are many instances of carbon monoxide poisoning that happens due to various reasons. An incident was reported where the occupants of the car died because the exhaust pipe was blocked due to snow and the occupants stopped breathing after some time.
How does it happen in a car?
The internal combustion engine produces a lot of toxic gases which is disposed of through the exhaust system of the vehicle. The most common way of carbon monoxide poisoning is when the car’s AC is on and it is parked in a garage or a space with very limited air movement. The car’s intake pulls in the air which is mixed with the exhaust gases. The carbon monoxide is odourless, so it goes undetected by the humans and slowly kills the occupants of the car.
The recent incident involving a modified Ford Fiesta had faulty exhaust system which leaked fumes inside the cabin of the car. The unaware couple inside the car were caught in the carbon monoxide which killed them instantly. There are many instances where the car’s exhaust may get blocked and it can’t throw out the fumes properly. The exhaust gases start to leak inside the cabin killing the occupants.
Also, if the car is old, it develops a lot of tiny holes on the floor of the vehicle due to rust. Such holes can be very dangerous as exhaust gases may enter inside the car from these holes and can kill the occupants of the car.
What are the symptoms?
Carbon monoxide inhalation can show an early symptom of nausea, headache, vomiting, dizziness and fatigue. The human body also starts to feel weak due to lack of oxygen in the body. Prolonged inhalation can cause seizure, confusion, disorientation, visual disturbance and fainting. The carbon monoxide can also cause retinal haemorrhages that cause blood vessels in the eyes to burst open.
Carbon monoxide poising can catch you unaware. There are few steps that you can do to ensure that are not affected by the dangerous gas.
- Don’t keep a vehicle running in an enclosed environment like a garage.
- Do not sleep in a car with the engine switched on if the surrounding has limited air flow, like near a wall boundary.
- Make sure that the exhaust is not buried in snow or sand when you go exploring.
- During off-roading, the exhaust may get dipped in slush and mud and can block it. Always check the exhaust.
- Get your car modified by a professional and get it checked duly for any leaking hole or anomaly that can throw exhaust fumes inside the cabin.
- If you drive an old car, which is more than 5 years old, get the exhaust system and the floor of the vehicle checked regularly for any holes.