Carbon Monoxide Tragedies Preventable

November 01, 2005
Jim Clark, Manager-Dane County Environmental Health, 242-6491 David Carlson, Public Relations Manager, 242-6424
Badger Prairie

The death and poisonings in McFarland this week related to carbon monoxide are prompting a fresh warning about what’s often called the “silent killer”, according to Jim Clark, Director of Environmental Health for the Dane County Division of Public Health. “Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas. Most tragedies could be prevented by having a carbon monoxide detector installed in the house and the use of extreme caution whenever fuel burning equipment is used indoors,” said Clark. Each year, unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning claims hundreds of victims nationwide. Carbon monoxide, or CO, is formed by incomplete combustion of any fuel, including gasoline, kerosene, wood, coal, oil, natural gas, or charcoal, and is the most common cause of fatal poisoning in Wisconsin. Most victims die in their sleep without experiencing the early warning symptoms of CO poisoning, which include headaches, dizziness or nausea. The Dane County Division of Public Health recommends that carbon monoxide detectors be installed in all homes and apartments. “Ideally, one detector should be placed on each floor of living area of the home, with at least one located near the bedrooms,” said Clark. Electrical and battery-operated carbon monoxide detectors are available at most hardware and discount stores. Residential CO poisonings have been traced to faulty or improperly installed furnaces, stoves and ovens, gas fireplaces, water heaters and cars that were accidentally left running in attached garages. As the heating season begins, the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning increases. “All fuel-burning appliances need to be properly maintained, including regular inspection by a qualified inspector. This includes clothes’ dryers, water heaters, furnaces, stoves, and fireplaces,” said Clark, “and never use a gas stove or charcoal to heat your home.” Several other carbon monoxide deaths that have occurred over the past several years in Wisconsin have involved outdoor activities. Hunters, campers, and boaters can be at risk of carbon monoxide exposure if they use portable heaters in enclosed spaces like cabins, campers, and tents. To prevent recreational exposures to carbon monoxide, public health experts recommend the use of battery-powered CO detectors in the sleeping area of a cabin or tent. Battery-powered detectors can also be used to monitor carbon monoxide levels in cars, trucks, RVs, and boats. For more information on this silent killer, contact the Dane County Division of Public Health at 242-6515, or go online: http://www.dhfs.state.wi.us/eh/Air/fs/CO.htm. ###