The effects of carbon monoxide poisoning are usually as sudden and unexpected as they are devastating. The gas itself is invisible, odorless, and present wherever carbon-based fuels are burned.

Gasoline, kerosene, natural gas, charcoal, and even wood fires all release carbon monoxide (or CO). It gives no warning, and only a small amount is necessary to cause permanent, life-altering damage or death. Wherever there are people performing ordinary activities like cooking, driving, bathing, or keeping warm, a small malfunction or inadequate ventilation can have immediate and tragic results.
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The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that unintentional, non-fire-related carbon monoxide poisoning is responsible for 500 deaths per year and as many as 15,000 emergency room visits.

A study by the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, examining poisoning deaths from 1999-2012, adds that 54% of these incidents occur at home.

What If You Live in an Apartment?

For apartment-dwellers and frequent travelers, the danger is even harder to avoid. Instead of scheduling your own repairs and inspections, you’re dependent on the owner of your apartment building or the hotels you visit to make sure these crucial tasks are done.

It may seem like a small comfort when you’re faced with the catastrophic aftermath of CO poisoning, but you should know that the law is on your side, and so are the passionate professionals at the Stoddard Firm.

Common Causes of Carbon Monoxide Inhalation

Chances are that you have at least a few CO sources in or near your apartment. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) identifies some of the most common poisoning culprits as:

  • Space heaters
  • Chimneys
  • Furnaces
  • Boilers
  • Gas stoves
  • Generators
  • Cars (in attached garages)

During day-to-day life, you probably only think about these items in terms of whether or not they’re working. If the heat, gas, electricity, or hot water suddenly die on you, fixing them might be a matter of a simple phone call. It might also turn into a drawn-out battle, depending on how responsive your landlord is, but at least you know there’s a problem to be fixed.

Don’t Wait to Get Repairs

If any of them begin leaking carbon monoxide, on the other hand, or if their vents become blocked, you may not know there’s an issue until it’s too late. Being forced to improvise your own alternatives due to delayed repairs, such as bringing in outside heating devices, can also put you at increased risk of poisoning.

The only real way to stay safe from carbon monoxide poisoning is through regular, preventative maintenance of all fuel-burning appliances, ventilation systems, and carbon monoxide alarms. Unfortunately, this means that whether or not your landlord is on top of things has a huge impact on your safety.

Apartment Complexes and Hotels Have a Duty to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Inhalation

As documented by the National Conference of State Legislature (NCSL), 37 states currently require all residential buildings with attached garages or fossil fuel-burning appliances to be equipped with a carbon monoxide alarm in each living space. Carbon monoxide detectors are also required in hotels and motels in 14 states.

If you live in a state where alarms are required, your landlord is legally obligated to provide an approved CO detector, as well as regular inspections to ensure it is functioning properly.

Even if your state does not require property owners to install and maintain CO detectors, your landlord is still responsible for providing habitable conditions to all tenants. This includes not only providing you with essentials like heat, hot water, and cooking facilities, but also ensuring that these systems remain in good, safe, working order. Allowing a CO poisoning to occur is a serious failure in this duty.

Common Injuries Caused by Carbon Monoxide Inhalation

According to Harvard Medical School, the immediate symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include:

  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath
  • Erratic behavior
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness/clumsiness
  • Vision problems
  • Confusion
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Chest pain
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat

Part of what makes carbon monoxide poisoning so dangerous is how easily its early symptoms can be mistaken for something innocuous, like the flu. The CDC recognizes those most vulnerable to CO poisoning to be infants, the elderly, and people suffering from anemia, chronic heart disease, or respiratory problems. However, even the healthiest adult can quickly build up a fatal dose in an enclosed space. People who are asleep when a leak starts often die without being awoken by symptoms.

For survivors of acute or even moderate carbon monoxide poisoning, long-term neurological complications are common and include:

  • Personality changes
  • Intellectual impairment
  • Blindness
  • Deafness

If exposure occurs during pregnancy, the fetus also has an elevated risk of death or cerebral palsy — a permanent neurological condition that can have a huge impact on quality of life.

What to Do If You’ve Been Exposed to Carbon Monoxide

If you believe that you or your loved ones have been exposed to dangerous carbon monoxide levels, the first step is to reach a well-ventilated area and seek immediate medical attention. It’s important to realize, however, that just because you’ve left the contaminated area doesn’t necessarily mean you’re out of the woods.
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It may take days or even years to determine what the long-term effects on your family will be.

The consequences of a single poisoning incident may be with you for the rest of your life, or the rest of your children’s lives. There may be a need for costly ongoing medical care. Survivors may encounter limited career options, or even a loss of independence.

Nothing can erase the damage that carbon monoxide poisoning can cause, but if you or your loved ones have been exposed due to landlord negligence, you have the right to compensation. More importantly, you deserve support that won’t run out just as you’re beginning to realize the scope of the help you need. Turn to a skilled, compassionate Georgia premises liability attorney for help.

At the Stoddard Firm, we have the knowledge and experience to make sure you and your loved ones are properly looked after. Give us a call at 678-RESULT for a free consultation on your unique situation and what we can do to help.

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