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Loophole LaRue, SASS #51438

It's Fall, and Time for the Annual Warning

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For the past several years, at the start of the heating season, I have posted information and warnings regarding carbon monoxide.   I spend a fair amount of time investigating and trying cases involving CO deaths and injuries.  I wish I didn't need to repeat the warnings this year, but based upon the number of new cases I've seen this past year, it looks like the warnings are still relevant.  So here goes.

 

Carbon monoxide ("CO") is an odorless, colorless, tasteless gas.  It can be produced by the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels.  It can be dangerous to humans, and even deadly, at certain levels and durations of exposure.  It can be found in the exhaust of cars, trucks, boats, motorcycles, generators, and anything else that uses an internal combustion engine, or burns fuel to prouce heat or hot water.  Furnaces and boilers that have not received annual servicing are potential sources, as are charcoal or gas grills operated inside a house or garage.  The tighter a house is built or insulated, the faster CO will accumulate.  Faulty vent systems, corroded exhausts, abd seperated PVC piping can all allow excess levels of CO to escape into the living space.  It is the ultimate silent killer, interfering with the ability of the blood to carry oxygen.  Many victims are overcome quietly while sleeping, and never wake up.  Early exposure symptoms (headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion) are often mistaken for flu and ignored.  Hundreds die every year from accidental exposures.

 

Some examples from my cases in just the past year:

  • An entire extended family in CT was overcome by CO during the Christmas holidays.  A 30 year old floor furnace was poorly maintained, and improperly modified by the homeowner; CO was literally pouring into the exhaust stream; the homeowner also improperly installed and modified the exhaust vent, effectively blocking the flow to the outside and causing fumes to back up into the house; in an effort to save money on heat, the homeowner also fully sealed almost all windows and doors with plastic sheeting, eliminating the infiltration of any fresh air into the house.  Three family member died; two suffered permanent brain damage, and will consequently require lifetime care.
  • A middle-aged executive in NH was overcome by CO in his condo, and died several days later while hospitalized; testing and investigation disclosed that the vent from his gas fired boiler was improperly installed and maintained, causing it to seperate and allowing the by-products of combustion to enter the home; improper adjustement of the boiler caused CO levels to be 100 times higher than as specified by the manufacturer.
  • An entire family was overcome by CO in their NH home; the homeowner had installed his own high efficiency boiler, but had neglected to properly convert the boiler from natural gas to propane; a contractor improperly installed the boiler vent system, and CO was released into the living space.  Fortunately, one resident was awakened and realized something was wrong; despite mental confusion, he was able to call 911 and a timely response by Police and Fire saved all residents from serious injury.

 

There are some simple safety recommendations that arise from these and dozens of similar cases:

  • Fuel burning appliance installations are jobs for PROFESSIONALS, as is the ongoing maintenace and repair of these devices; especially with the advent of high efficiency burners and computerized controls, this is no place for do-it-yourselfers.  Some states REQUIRE that a licensed gas fitter perform all installations and service.  Even if your state doesn't, it's good advice to hire a professional;
  • Compressors, power washers, grills, space heaters, and other devices that burn gasoline, natural gas, propane, wood, coal or charcoal ALL produce CO, and have no venting systems; DO NOT RUN THEM INSIDE YOUR HOUSE, BARN OR GARAGE;
  • Your appliances and the attached vents require yearly inspection and servicing by a professional; do not laugh this off; it is not a conspiracy to squeeze more money out of you; it is a necessity to save your life and the lives of your families;
  • INSTALL CO DETECTORS THROUGHOUT YOUR HOUSE, and change the batteries as required; in every one of the cases summarized above, the homeowners either removed the batteries or allowed them to run down; batteries are CHEAP!!!

 

I want to see you at a match, not at the scene of a CO accident.

 

Stay warm.

 

LL

 

 

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Good information. Thanks!

I will us this in a safety meeting at work.

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Thank you Loophole. I appreciate it.

 

My wife and I are adding a couple of CO  detectors. We have one that plugs into an outlet on the inside wall near the garage entrance but we need to add some to the bedrooms just to be safe.

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22 minutes ago, Pat Riot, SASS #13748 said:

Thank you Loophole. I appreciate it.

 

My wife and I are adding a couple of CO  detectors. We have one that plugs into an outlet on the inside wall near the garage entrance but we need to add some to the bedrooms just to be safe.

 

++++++++

 

LL

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Every year at this time my wife sees a news report about somebody going belly up from CO, she asks if I should get a CO detector. I have to remind her that we have an electric system. ;)

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