Effect Measure

We don’t usually think of power outages as an important cause of poisoning but it is. Electrical power has become such a necessary part of basic needs — think of light at night and refrigeration — that if it is interrupted for more than a few hours people will turn to gasoline powered generators to provide it. Apparently, though, the fridge and the light bulb are not the only necessities. Experience with recent disasters is revealing that people have new kinds of imperatives:

Hours after Hurricane Ike roared ashore in Texas, more than two million homes were without power, which left some scrambling to preserve food and others looking for ways to entertain children, a move that proved to be, in some instances, poisonous. Researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston found that 75 percent of children treated for carbon monoxide poisoning caused by gasoline-powered electrical generators were playing video games. (Science Blog)

Carbon monoxide gas is a colorless and odorless product of incomplete combustion. It combines with hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying molecule in the blood, twenty times more strongly than oxygen. If too much oxygen carrying capacity is used up, a person can die. Its symptoms are insidious and easy to overlook (headache, dizziness, confusion, nausea) and fatal cases aren’t rare — close to 500 a year in the US. In fact, monoxide poisoning is the most common cause of fatal poisoning in the US, and the relationship with power outages is also well known.

But the Texas experience is noteworthy because it is specifically a newly recognized pediatric problem, which is why it was reported in the June issue of Journal of Pediatrics. 20 of 37 carbon monoxide poisonings seen at the medical center were under the age of 20. Public service announcements about monoxide poisoning are usually targeted at adults, so these data suggest that children, teens and young adults might be another important target audience.

And stepping back from the specifics, a causal chain that starts with a tropical disturbance and ends with a fatally poisoned child is something to ponder.

Comments

  1. #1 Snowy Owl
    May 27, 2009

    As a single parent of Twin, I let them chose and buy novels they want and seems ok to the Father.

    As last summer Satellite TV is out from June 1st to September 1st, they are more outdoor, read a lot more, and my energy needs have gone down for the kids.

    Snowy

  2. #2 River
    May 27, 2009

    Rather than running equipment directly from the generator, a much safer strategy is to use the generator outside to charge a 12-volt battery (or batteries), then lug the 12-volt inside, attach an inverter to it, and plug electronic devices into the inverter. It’s clean and safe and a built in alarm in the inverter will alert users when the 12-volt’s charge is getting low.

    For those without a generator, keep an extra 12-volt battery or two and jumper cables on hand. You can use the battery(s) to run electonics and use your car — parked, but running outside — to recharge it.

  3. #3 K
    May 27, 2009

    Which is why I keep talking about Peak Oil – now economist Jeff Rubin is on board with his new book “Why Your World Is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller” – a fairly good NPR interview at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=104466911 about 7 mins long.
    Of course given the un-repaired and un-updated state of the electric grid a health crisis such as a pandemic could result in an electric crisis that would worsen the health crisis. The lack of slack in the workforce could mean a real shortage of electric workers on the job, failures in the grid, inability to repair them etc etc. But even without that in the end we will never have as much energy per person in the future as we do now and the whole way we live is going to change whether we like it or not. Too bad we can’t face bad news and prepare for it.

  4. #4 Snowy Owl
    May 27, 2009

    HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Sesame Workshop, And The Ad Council Launch National Campaign To Protect Families From H1N1 Virus And Stay Healthy

    http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/151412.php

    Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced today that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is joining the Ad Council and Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street, to launch a national public service advertising campaign designed to encourage American families and children to take steps to protect themselves from the 2009 H1N1 flu virus and continue to practice healthy habits. As part of HHS and the Ad Council’s campaign, Sesame Workshop produced a television PSA featuring Sesame Street’s Elmo and Gordon explaining the importance of healthy habits such as washing your hands, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth and sneezing into the bend of your arm.

    The campaign was unveiled this morning by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at the HHS/Department of Education Childcare Center in Washington, D.C. The PSAs will be distributed nationwide today and will be supported in airtime donated by television stations.

    “We are doing everything we can to protect public health and teach children how they can stay healthy and safe,” said Secretary Sebelius. “Elmo, Gordon, Sesame Workshop, and the Ad Council are delivering an important message to our kids.”

    more at http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/151412.php

    Snowy

  5. #5 Frank Mirer
    May 28, 2009

    Catalytic converters on internal combustion powered generators. Or, sell a CO detector equipped smoke alarm as a mandatory accessory. Otherwise, fatalities are inevitable.