Food, Health And Safety: Indoor Air Pollution: Danger Level #5: Dangerous Gases (Radon And Carbon Monoxide)

You can’t see or smell carbon monoxide, but it can be a serious threat in your home as well as in your automobile. Carbon monoxide, also known as CO, is a colorless and odorless gas. It is produced whenever any fuel such as gas, oil, kerosene, wood or charcoal is burned.

Fetuses, infants, the elderly and those with anemia, breathing or heart problems are at increased risk. Carbon monoxide symptoms may include nausea, headaches, dizziness, increased pulse and respiration as well as confusion; severe poisoning can result in brain or heart damage and even death. If you think you may have been exposed to CO poisoning, get fresh air immediately by opening the doors and windows, turn off the suspected appliance and leave the house.

A recent trend is the use of generators due to frequent power outages in Ghana. These generators produce CO that can enter enclosed spaces like rooms to cause havoc, especially when the room is poorly ventilated. Always ensure that CO generating appliances like generator are kept in isolation where there is enough air to dilute their concentrations.

Charcoal should never be used indoors and Gasoline-powered engines (e.g. lawnmowers, chain saws, weed trimmers, etc.) should not be used in enclosed areas. Idling your car in the garage should not be done, even if the garage door is open to the outside and if you expect to do it for only a short time.

Radon, much like carbon monoxide, is a gas that you can’t smell or see. It is a radioactive gas emitted through the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water. It’s also everywhere as part of the natural environment, but usually in insignificant amounts.

Since this gas comes to the earth’s surface from underground, it may build up to harmful levels in poorly ventilated spaces. It enters your home through small spaces and openings such as unsealed crawl spaces, cracks and wall/floor joints, floor drains, pores in hollow block walls, sump pumps and other plumbing penetrations.

Radon also can seep into groundwater and harbour there. Therefore, a radon problem is more likely if your home’s water supply comes from a groundwater source..

Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking and in Ghana most people downplay the availability and the health effects of radon in their homes as a result of ignorance. Understand that radon is naturally occurring, and everybody is at risk. Fix all cracks and wall openings in your building and ensure primarily that your house is adequately ventilated.

Preventing the exposure and effects of these dangerous indoor air pollutants can be adequately achieved by proper ventilation and care for indoor spaces. Stay Safe!

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About author

Hakim Tabas

Hakim Tabas is Health, Safety and Environmental Practitioner with a Post-Graduate Diploma in Occupational safety, Health and Environmental Management from GIMPA, Ghana. He thinks of Health and Safety as a calling and is very dedicated to the practice. He is affectionately known by colleagues and friends as Don Tono.

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