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Carbon Monoxide Risks for Farmers

The doors and windows are usually shut when you’re out in the shop or machine shed during cold weather. Without proper ventilation, there’s a risk for carbon monoxide poisoning. The most common source is running tractors or vehicles inside. Gas-fired heaters and other equipment fueled by gas or oil can also lead to unsafe levels of exposure.

Renee Anthony is the director of the Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health. She says even grain bins can harbor the colorless, odorless gas.

"We had a fatality a few years back where there was some overheating during removal of, I think it was corn," says Anthony. "They had a small fire, they put some water into the bin, but it continued to smolder. A smoldering fire is going to create carbon monoxide, and if it’s in a contained space, there’s no way to get that carbon monoxide out so it tends to build up over time."

The initial symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure will make you feel like you’re getting the flu.

"You’ll get a little tired, a little headache, maybe a little lightheaded. As it progresses, as the concentration maybe increases and your level of carbon monoxide increases in your hemoglobin, then you can start really feeling dizzy," says Anthony. "It may cause some feelings of nausea, and at some point it may impair your ability to think straight."

You can avoid the danger with carbon monoxide detectors. Anthony says the best ones have a battery backup, and display the concentration levels.

Learn more about carbon monoxide risks for farmers

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