Dubai: A Dubai-based pulmonologist on Wednesday cautioned people against burning wood, charcoal or gasoline heaters indoors for heating as these can turn into lethal killers.
Dr Mazen Zouwayhed, consultant pulmonologist and head of pulmonary critical care at the American Hospital Dubai explained: “Heaters that burn organic fuel such as charcoal, gasoline and wood, emit carbon monoxide. This gas though tasteless and odourless is highly toxic as it has 20 times more affinity to attach itself to the haemoglobin molecule in our blood.”Dr Mazen Zouwayhed
The doctor’s warning came after a Dubai family of five died in Nepal due to suspected carbon monoxide poisoning on Tuesday. In Dubai, two Asian housemaids died after inhaling poisonous smoke from burning coal while sleeping in their room at their sponsor’s villa in Bur Dubai on January 18.
Dr Zouwayhed explained that when heaters containing fossil fuels are burnt indoors and without proper ventilation, the carbon monoxide emitted through them has no way to exit the room and is inhaled by the people sitting or sleeping there.
Dull headache, nausea
“Usually symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning with 3-5 per cent build up in the human body is detectable as the individual will experience a dull headache, nausea, fatigue and vomiting. However, in most cases, when people burn these fuels indoors and go to sleep in the absence of any monitoring, the carbon monoxide is quickly absorbed by the haemoglobin molecule so much so that even if there is some oxygen in the room, it cannot be absorbed into the blood of that individual as there is no place in the blood molecules for oxygen. The lungs carrying blood to organs have only carbon monoxide and the people start getting hypoxic (deprived of oxygen), although they look very bright with the gas making the haemoglobin very bright. In the absence of oxygen to the brain, tissues, and organs, victims get paralysed,” explained Dr Zouwayhed.
That is why if the victims burn it overnight during sleep, it turns fatal. Before they know, the concentration reaches to about 10 per cent in their blood. In paralysis they are unable to call out for help and die of asphyxiation.
Dr Zouwayhed said it was important to educate people to stay away from burning fossil fuel heaters indoors in closed spaces without ventilation. “If one is burning a gas heater, the room must have a vent so that the emissions are dumped outside the room and only the heat reaches the inmates of the room.”
Dr Zouwayhead also added that death due to carbon monoxide poisoning was rare in the UAE which does not experience extreme cold. “I dealt with such fatalities in the US where people who lived in basements and had gas heaters were victims.
The only way to treat carbon monoxide poisoning is to rush the patient to a hyperbaric oxygen chamber.”The highly pressurised oxygen chamber is able to forcefully, kick out the carbon monoxide from the haemoglobin molecule. otherwise with such a strong affinity to haemoglobin, it is impossible to push out the carbon monoxide and replace with oxygen. Once under pressure as the percentage of oxygen goes up and oxygenated blood supply is replenished, the patient can be saved, In many cases the patients can experience brain damage, tissue damage and death very rapidly,” explained Dr Zouwayhed.
Carbon monoxide poisoning
What is carbon monoxide: Carbon monoxide is emitted by fossil fuel.
Why it is dangerous: When fossil fuel is burnt indoor without ventilation, carbon monoxide enters human body. This gas is tasteless and odourless and highly toxic as it has 20 times more affinity to attach itself to the haemoglobin molecule in our blood.
Symptoms: Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning with 3-5 per cent build up in human body is detectable as the individual will experience a dull headache, nausea, fatigue and vomiting.
Precaution: Do not burn fossil fuel heaters indoors in closed spaces.
Treatment: Patient must be rushed to a hyperbaric oxygen chamber which is able to forcefully kick out carbon monoxide from the haemoglobin molecule.