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    For Law Enforcement Officers, a new potential risk complicates, their already demanding jobs. While this risk cannot be detected by human senses, it can cause very harmful effects to an officer’s well-being. Carbon Monoxide or CO is a gas produced when fuel is burned. Law Enforcement Officers are faced with this risk because they spend such a large portion of their day in their patrol car. A simple crack in the exhaust manifold can lead to high levels of Carbon Monoxide exposure to an officer. Many police departments are becoming more cautious of this and have even pulled some vehicles from their fleet in fear of subjecting their officers to CO Poisoning.

    Sources of CO in vehicles

    Carbon Monoxide is a poisonous gas that is both odorless and tasteless. It is produced from the incomplete combustion of carbon containing compounds. Inhalation can cause central nervous system damage and asphyxiation.

    • A malfunctioning exhaust system in the patrol vehicle can allow leakage of Carbon Monoxide gas into the vehicle cab, leaving you breathing toxic gas without knowing it.
    • Many departments outsource vehicle upfitting to a third party. This could be problematic if the new holes created to run wiring for lights are not properly sealed. This could allow Carbon Monoxide to leak into the cab.

    Inhalation Effects of CO

    • Carbon Monoxide is a highly toxic gas when present in large concentrations. It can pose a very serious threat if inhaled.
    • The most common symptoms associated with Carbon Monoxide inhalation are headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, fatigue, and a feeling of weakness. Large exposures can result in loss of consciousness, arrhythmias, seizures, or death.
    • 50 PPM- According to OSHA, this is the maximum allowable concentration for continuous exposure for healthy adults in any eight-hour period.
    • 100-200 PPM- Slight headache, fatigue, dizziness, and nausea after 2-3 hours of exposure.
    • 400 PPM- Frontal headaches within 1-2 hours. Life threatening after 3 hours.
    • 800 PPM- Dizziness, nausea, and convulsions within 45 minutes. Loss of consciousness within two hours. Death within 2-3 hours.
    • 1600 PPM- Headache, dizziness and nausea within 20 minutes. Death within one hour.

    Safety Precautions

    • If the CO detector alarms, exit the vehicle and ventilate the patrol car.
    • After a sufficient period of time, a second CO reading should be taken inside the vehicle cab. If CO is still detected, a supervisor should be notified, and the issue should be reported to a member of the vehicle fleet department.
    • It is important not to enter the vehicle when high levels of CO are present.