Carbon monoxide the silent killer

Oct 31 2010 - 10:40pm

OGDEN -- With the arrival of cold weather, people need to be on the lookout for the silent killer.

That's the nickname given to carbon monoxide and the Ogden Fire Chief Mike Mathieu is reminding residents of the dangers of the deadly gas. Since carbon monoxide is odorless, colorless, and tasteless, it is very dangerous because it can go undetected until ill symptoms occur.

Early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include nausea, headache, fatigue, and cramping. Carbon monoxide can interfere with cognitive functions causing victims to be unaware of what may be happening to them.

"A lot of people think if they use a barbecue in the garage and they've opened a window, it will vent out, but then they get cold and close the window a little," said Deputy Fire Chad Tucker. "They'll continue to keep closing it a little more thinking they're just fine and that it's ventilating OK and then the carbon monoxide builds up and they don't know until everyone is sick."

Over the last six years a significant effort has been made on the part of Ogden city to prevent any further accidental deaths due to carbon monoxide poisoning, according to Mathieu. There were two accidental deaths due to carbon monoxide in 2003, and one in 2005 and one in 2006.

Ogden has placed more than 5,800 carbon monoxide detectors in homes and there have been no accidental deaths in Ogden since 2006.

Those detectors are available for Ogden residents at the city office for $10.

"They can take a copy of their water bill and go down to the cashier's desk and buy them right there," Tucker said.

In the 2006 incident, three police officers were also poisoned by the gas while investigating the original incident. A city ordinance was adopted in February 2007 requiring carbon monoxide detectors in all city residences by Nov. 1 of the same year. In 2009, a new law limited local governments' ability to enforce carbon monoxide ordinances to the occupants only and not necessarily the owners of the residential dwellings.

Over the last year, Ogden problem areas have included poor maintenance involving gas stoves, gas furnaces, gas water heaters and gas dryers. Mathieu also cites vehicles or motor tools left running in garages as well as chimney flues not properly adjusted, open or cleaned as causing problems.

Tucker said that sometimes people bring a propane heater indoors to heat the house.

"Yeah, you get a source of heat, but you also get carbon monoxide," Tucker said.

Residents are encouraged to perform regular maintenance on all fuel-burning appliances and not to place operating generators where their exhaust can enter the home or run vehicles inside garages for significant periods of time. They should also place a carbon monoxide detector near bedroom areas to ensure the monitoring for the presence of this dangerous gas.

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