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Russian Forest Fire & Carbon monoxide

Written By Gopal Krishna on Wednesday, August 11, 2010 | 1:05 PM

Pollutants from the forest fires burning in central Russia, Siberia and Canada have been detected all over the northern hemisphere, officials said.

Carbon monoxide has been detected well outside the territories involved by a NASA satellite equipped with atmospheric instruments.

Pollutants from the fires in Russia and Canada have now formed a ring around the planet and are moving north, satellite data shows.

The immediate economic cost of the fires has been estimated at $15 billion.

Forest fires are raging in 22 regions in Russia. The situation is particularly alarming in the Belgorod, Voronezh, Ivanovo, Lipetsk, Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod, Ryazan, and Tambov regions, Mordovia, and Chuvashia.

Russia is in the midst of a full-scale disaster as hundreds of forest and peatland fires are covering part of the world's largest nation in a thick cloud of smoke. Temperatures in Moscow and elsewhere have broken past heat records several times in the last month while a long drought combined with fires have led to the loss of 20 percent of Russia's grain crop, causing Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to ban grain exports. Russian officials say that it;s likely some 15,000 people to date have died from the disaster.

It has been noted that Russia's 2007 forest code that was signed into law by Vladimir Putin, Russian Prime Minister has weakened fire prevention efforts in woodland areas.

Carbon monoxide can cause harmful health effects by reducing oxygen delivery to the body's organs (like the heart and brain) and tissues.

Cardiovascular Effects. The health threat from lower levels of CO is most serious for those who suffer from heart disease, like angina, clogged arteries, or congestive heart failure. For a person with heart disease, a single exposure to CO at low levels may cause chest pain and reduce that person's ability to exercise; repeated exposures may contribute to other cardiovascular effects.

Central Nervous System Effects. Even healthy people can be affected by high levels of CO. People who breathe high levels of CO can develop vision problems, reduced ability to work or learn, reduced manual dexterity, and difficulty performing complex tasks. At extremely high levels, CO is poisonous and can cause death.

Smog. CO contributes to the formation of smog ground-level ozone, which can trigger serious respiratory problems.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas often formed in the process of incomplete combustion of organic substances, including fuels. It is dangerous because it interferes with normal oxygen uptake for humans and other living organisms needing oxygen to live.

CO is a gas that can build up to dangerous concentrations indoors when fuel- burning devices are not properly vented, operated, or maintained. Because it has no odor, color or taste, CO cannot be detected by our senses. Breathed over long periods of time, low concentrations of CO may also contribute to other illness. Fortunately, simple measures can be taken to prevent CO problems. One such action is the installation of a CO alarm to detect potentially deadly conditions.

Sources of CO

In general, CO is produced when any material burns. More is produced when there isn’t enough oxygen for efficient burning. Common sources of CO in homes include fuel-burning devices such as: furnaces, gas or kerosene space heaters, boilers, gas cooking stoves, water heaters, clothes dryers, fireplaces, charcoal grills, wood stoves, lawn mowers, power generators, camp stoves, motor vehicles and some power tools with internal combustion engines. Smoking is another common source of CO that can negatively impact indoor air quality.

The following signs may indicate a CO problem:

* Streaks of soot around fuel-burning appliances;
* Absence of an upward draft in your chimney;
* Excess moisture found on windows, walls, or other cold surfaces;
* Excessive rusting on flue pipes, other pipe connections, or appliance jacks;
* Orange or yellow flames (should be blue) in your combustion appliances;
* Smoky smells-don't assume your fire alarm works;
* Fallen soot in the fireplace;
* Small amount of water leaking from the base of the chimney vent, or flue pipe;
* Damaged or discolored bricks at the top of your chimney; and
* Rust on the portion of the vent pipe visible from the outside.

The health effects of breathing in CO depend on the concentration of CO in the air, the duration of exposure, and the health status of the exposed person. For most people, the first signs of exposure to low concentrations of CO include mild headache and breathlessness with moderate exercise. People with heart disease are more likely to be affected by CO, even at low concentrations. Continued exposure can lead to flu-like symptoms including more severe headaches, dizziness, tiredness, and nausea that may progress to confusion, irritability, and impaired judgment, memory and coordination. CO is called the "silent killer" because if the early signs are ignored, a person may lose consciousness and be unable to escape to safety. Under certain conditions, lethal concentrations of CO have occurred within 10 minutes in the confines of a closed garage with a car engine running inside or when a portable generator is used in or near a house.

It could be CO poisoning if:

* You feel better when you are away from your home;
* Several people in the home gets sick at the same time (the flu is usually passed from person to person);
* The family members who are most affected spend the most time in the home;
* Symptoms occur or get worse shortly after turning on a fuel-burning device (furnace, oven, fireplace) or running a vehicle in attached garage;
* Indoor pets also appear ill (pets may experience symptoms first);


People at greater risk of CO poisoning include individuals with:

* respiratory conditions (such as asthma and emphysema);
* cardiovascular disease;
* anemia (such as sickle cell anemia); and
* individuals engaging in strenuous physical activity;
* the elderly, children and fetuses.
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