Editors Blog

Taking Care of Business: Time To Get REALLY MAD About CO

February 13, 2008
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The news is so commonplace that even I sometimes take it for granted. I’m talking about daily stories of people dying or being sickened by carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. I get my daily Google Alerts off the Internet and it would surprise me if a day didn’t go by where someone was killed or injured by CO poisoning.

Take this story from last week:

“Authorities in Indian River County said carbon monoxide poisoning killed a 29-year-old woman and her two daughters Friday, according to a report by Scripps-Treasure Coast newspapers.

“Indian River County Sheriff’s spokesman Deputy Jeff Luther said someone called 911 at 1:50 p.m. about someone found dead at a home in the 300 block of Seventh Court Southwest. Inside were the bodies of Yolanda Elaine McCloud, Reyona Parker, 11 and Alexia Parker, 10, Luther said.

“Deputies noticed the stench of carbon monoxide when they walked in the home. Thursday, Luther said the power company had turned off the electricity to the home. That’s when McCloud purchased a generator, he said. Deputies Friday found the generator had been on but was out of gas.”

The story is flawed in one sense since CO is colorless and odorless. But the point is these are senseless deaths that could be prevented by using some cooperative thinking on all levels, from manufacturers to suppliers to contractors. With such sophisticated measurement devices, one would think that every piece of fuel burning equipment would not only carry bright ORANGE letters warning about the dangers of operating equipment in enclosed, unvented spaces but also be equipped with an automatic shutoff switch when detectable levels of CO are higher than acceptable levels, i.e., 15-30 PPM.

We have test instruments that accurately read CO levels, why not use that same technology on furnaces, water heaters, propane heaters, barbeque grills, etc.? Would it add to the cost of the equipment? Of course it would. Would it save at least one life? Of course it would. And isn’t that worth the extra cost?

We can talk until we are blue in the face but not everyone is going to “get it.” We can’t force people to act rationally and responsibly. But we can force them to act when the equipment they have bought shuts down and causes an inconvenience. Now that is when people will take notice.

Once we’re done talking the talk, let’s walk the talk. Start making a fuss now before one more innocent life is lost. The HVAC trade can be the lifesavers if we choose to be.

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