It’s winter, which is also flu season. We’ve been hearing a lot about the flu the last several weeks in the consumer media, especially since it’s turning out to be a particularly virulent flu season. But this is also the time of year when danger lurks in the form of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning — a silent and unseen killer. Appliances, such as furnaces, (whether used for home comfort or industrial heat) boilers, and generators — or vehicles of any kind that burn fuel of some kind, such as gas, oil, kerosene, and wood, produce CO.

When appliances or vehicles aren’t functioning properly or misused, and are not well ventilated, CO can build up and poison humans and animals inhabitants, which, in extreme cases, can cause death.

Last month I read several accounts of people who died due to CO poisoning. One story involved an 11-year-old child and two adults in the same house who died on Christmas.

And while CO poisoning deaths often occur during the coldest time of the year, when people are running their furnaces and boilers to keep warm, CO can strike at other times caused by other equipment, and at times when people already are in the midst of another emergency. This was the case when several people died because of CO poisoning due to improper ventilation of generators that were used following Hurricane Sandy.

And it can happen anywhere, not just in a home. Last month , approximately 50 children and adults were taken to area hospitals due to CO poisoning in an Atlanta elementary school. In this instance nobody died. In various news stories of the incident, it was noted that the school did not have CO detectors at the time.

I’m not sure if it’s common or not for a school to have CO detectors, but if it’s not it should be. And what about other buildings besides houses and schools? Other buildings should have CO detectors, too, to protect both children and adults. Some states do require CO detectors to be installed in certain types of buildings.

HVAC contractors, it’s important for you to know the CO detector laws in your area. Also, talk to your customers (or discuss it on your website or your eNewsletter) about CO, CO poisoning, and other related facts. Let them know you can help. Even if they don’t buy a CO detector and installation from you, it’s still the decent thing to do to educate people about what they can do to prevent CO from overtaking their buildings or residences, and that alarms are available to alert them in case it does.

There is a lot of information available on the web about CO poisoning, CO detectors, and other relevant information. A few websites to visit to get more information include: