As the cold weather season descends on the Northern Hemisphere, pilots and aircraft owners should turn their attention to a very significant danger in the cockpit. A danger that is an invisible and deadly by-product of the engines that keep us in the air. A danger that can seep its way into our cabins through the heaters that we use during this winter season. The danger is Carbon Monoxide.
Carbon Monoxide (CO) is an odorless and tasteless gas that is highly poisonous to humans. Exposure in even small concentrations can quickly lead to short-term symptoms and in prolonged or higher concentrations can lead to incapacitation and even death. Even repeat or long-term exposures at lower concentrations in a closed environment can lead to the same result.
When inhaled, CO is absorbed easily into the bloodstream where it attaches itself to hemoglobin with a bond that is over 200 times that of Oxygen. Because CO prevents the transport of oxygen in hemoglobin, the symptoms of CO poisoning are very similar to Hypoxia.