I hate sports clichés. That's why I chose this headline. It's football season and many people are hooked on college and pro football, fantasy football, flag football, tabletop football, etc. Football is everywhere. The game is great but the clichés have to go.

Now let's morph into another item that is everywhere and has a description befitting of any obnoxious cliché. It is called carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Odorless, colorless, and tasteless CO carries the moniker of "silent killer." I hate that moniker. I wish it would go away. But as long as there is incomplete combustion in our world - which we will always have - this silent killer will walk among us.

It is time for someone or some group to step up and take the CO ball and run with it. Meaning? The HVAC trade needs to educate its own people on the importance of combustion testing the equipment it sells and services. It is not only the right thing to do, it is the imperative thing to do. Not only that, but educating customers is next on the list. They need to be reminded of the importance of equipment maintenance and the factors that contribute to incomplete combustion, i.e., blocked flues and vents.


If you need more visible and real-life proof of the damage caused by CO poisoning, take a moment to set up your e-mail alert to include any CO news alerts. Simply go to Google.com and set up the alert. Every day you will get a summary of all stories involving CO, including updates on education and deaths/injuries. I set the alert up a couple of years ago and there has never been a day without some CO story. The silent killer is becoming a repetitious annoyance - like a sports cliché.

By seeing the statistics in black-and-white, you can see for yourself that CO is an important topic that all-too-often gets pushed aside by the more important news of the day: football scores or superstars having run-ins with the law. The glitz gets the headlines while stories of an elderly couple, dead in their kitchen from CO poisoning get below-the-fold or second page headlines.

I'll admit that there is no cure for ignorance or stupidity, like the recent story of the people who were using propane stoves for a fish-fry at a storage facility in Texas. The small room was unvented and the buildup of toxic propane gas sent 15 of them to the hospital with CO poisoning. If it wasn't so tragic it would be laughable.

This was another tragic one. A news report from Georgia read: "The victims [four] - all adults - were in a home where the power had been disconnected. According to police, there was a generator in use at the home, and carbon monoxide ended up filling the air inside the home, asphyxiating the adults there."

And here is one more note, government figures show that CO poisoning is the most common type of accidental poisoning nationwide, contributing to 40,000 emergency room visits annually in the United States. Depending on which reporting agency you believe, there are between 500 and several thousand CO deaths in the United States each year.


Which HVAC contractor group wants to step up and make combustion analysis and training mandatory for its members? Which group wants to make training a condition of membership? I know there are several of you out there with membership ranging from a few dozen contractors to thousands of contractors.

Do any of you require your members to learn the latest in CO testing education? Why not? Do your members insist on their techs doing a combustion analysis as part of routine maintenance or during every emergency call in a customer's home or business? Why not? Do your members require service techs to carry a CO monitor with them to test the air when they enter a building? Why not? Do your members re-quire their service techs suggest CO alarms for each home and discuss CO with each customer? Why not?

In this highly litigious society, if an HVAC contractor's customer is sickened or killed by CO poisoning, that contractor stands a good chance of facing a lawsuit because he or she failed to alert the injured party of the dangers of CO poisoning. A lawsuit could put a contractor out of business. So, how important is CO education now?

Be the first group - or individual - to be known for your commitment to fight CO ignorance and promote proper training. It will save lives and show your customers that you care. Now, who is up first? Yikes, I said another cliché.

The NEWS wants to know your knowledge of CO and if your techs are armed with the training and tools to do the job. Click on "Survey" in the left column and take our online survey.

Publication date: 10/23/2006