In the past week, carbon monoxide poisoning has resulted in the following tragedies and near-tragedies from carbon monoxide exposure making the national news:
- In Colorado, carbon monoxide oozed silently from a pipe coming from a disconnected water heater into the kitchen and classrooms of an elementary school, poisoning 44 people at Montezuma Creek Elementary School. Both kids and adults were hurt by the carbon monoxide fumes and the entire elementary school was evacuated after the 44 carbon monoxide victims (including one Emergency Medical Technician) were taken for treatment to local area hospitals. Fortunately, no one died from carbon monoxide poisoning here.
- Also in Colorado, over 20 miners suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning in the Revenue-Virginius gold and silver mine located in Quray County, southwest of Denver, this past weekend, after they were exposed to carbon monoxide fumes following some explosives being detonated at the mine. Sadly, 2 of the miners died from inhaling carbon monoxide in this incident.
- In the Canadian town of Floradale, Ontario, another carbon monoxide accident happened in an elementary school today, although no one was seriously hurt or killed in this incident. Here, the kids were not in school when a school custodian and another school employee were monitoring the school facilities before classes began in the morning, and became nauseous as they investigated a strange smell coming from one of the classrooms. The children were sent home as they arrived at school, and the two school employees were treated by EMS personnel for exposure to carbon monoxide fumes at the scene. It’s suspected that the carbon monoxide was making its way into the school from an overhead heating unit.
- In South Florida, a woman was lucky to have a carbon monoxide alarm in her home because the alarm alerted others to the danger of carbon monoxide being in her house. Emergency crews arrived at the home to find the doors locked and the woman unconscious in the house; she was alive and taken to a local hospital for carbon monoxide poisoning treatment. The carbon monoxide came into her home from a car that had been left running in the attached garage.
Carbon Monoxide is a Silent Killer – Be Aware of the Symptoms of CO Poisoning
Carbon monoxide is a gas that is toxic to human beings and animals. It has no color, it has no smell, and is known as a silent killer of many victims each year, particularly as temperatures cool and heaters are turned on. CO is a gas that comes from combustion — especially combustion in engines like those found in cars, trucks, gas ovens, and residential and commercial heaters and heating systems.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that CO poisoning first shows itself when people begin to suffer from things like:
- Chest Pain
Breathe in enough carbon monoxide, and the person (or animal) will lose consciousness. If left unconscious in the presence of the CO fumes, that person will ultimately die from inhaling the toxic fumes of carbon monoxide gas.
Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Steps need to be taken periodically to protect people from carbon monoxide poisoning. The Mayo Clinic has the following recommendations for homes and residences:
- Install a carbon monoxide detector in the hallway near each sleeping area in your house.
- Open the garage door before starting your car.
- Never run your car in a closed garage.
- If you have an attached garage, keep the garage door open and the door to the house firmly closed while the car is running.
- Use gas appliances as recommended.
- Never use a gas stove or oven to heat your home.
- Use portable gas camp stoves only outdoors.
- Use fuel-burning space heaters only when someone is awake to monitor them and doors or windows are open to provide fresh air.
- Don’t run a generator in an enclosed space, such as the basement or garage.
- Keep your gas appliances and fireplace in good repair.
- Make sure your gas appliances are properly vented.
- Clean your fireplace chimney and flue every year.
- Ask your utility company about yearly checkups for all gas appliances, including your furnace.
However, carbon monoxide poisoning is a killer that can hurt people at work or at school, just as much as in their homes. It’s important to make sure that schools are taking proper precautions to make sure that heaters, stoves, ovens, etc., are safe from carbon monoxide leaks and that employers are taking the proper steps to protect workers from carbon monoxide exposure (e.g., proper ventilation in mines, etc.).
In fact, state and federal laws exist that place a legal duty on schools and workplaces to make sure that these preventative maintenance checks are done to keep people safe from carbon monoxide exposure — and if carbon monoxide does escape and hurt or injure or kill someone, then civil and criminal remedies may exist for those victims.