On Wednesday, March 13, five people were found dead in their rural Michigan home, all victims of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. The victims included a mother and her three daughters, ages 6 to 10. The mother’s boyfriend also perished.
It was leaking exhaust from a basement propane furnace, which had a quarter-inch gap in the connection between the exhaust pipe and furnace. Apparently the furnace had been recently moved. The home had no CO detector — no CO detector.
No sooner had I read the story did I send off a letter to our local newspaper, The Detroit Free Press, imploring readers to make an increased effort to spread CO poisoning awareness. I also sat down to write this column, much earlier than I usually would to write a column.
I’m mad as hell and my emotions should rule the moment.
Before you shake your head, thinking this is another redundant story about the importance of CO detectors in the home, think again. Sure, we in the hvacr trade media “preach to the choir” when we talk about carbon monoxide and the broader picture, indoor air quality (IAQ). Sure, you educate customers on the dangers of CO poisoning. But people are still dying.
PREVENTABLE TRAGEDIESAccording to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), over 300 people will die this year from CO poisoning. Thousands of others will be sickened by it. I don’t doubt that there are some CO poisoning deaths that go unreported because the cause of death is unknown.
I am amazed that in this era of instant information and communication, we still have as many casualties as this. A simple $20 CO detector is often enough to save a life. $20! Heck, we spend that much on dinner or movie tickets.
I know that some people just don’t get the message. I understand that. But should that mean we should stop making the effort to educate them? No. There are many methods to educate and communicate with people who would otherwise turn a deaf ear to the problem. For example, why not a community fundraiser with proceeds going to purchase CO detectors for the poor or elderly who cannot go to the store and buy this life-saving warning device?
I’m not suggesting that only the poor and elderly are victims of CO poisoning. Even the most affluent communities are not immune from this problem.
I think back to the story of former tennis professional Vitas Gerulaitis, who, while napping at a friend’s Long Island guest house in September 1994, died from carbon monoxide leaking from an improperly installed swimming pool heater. The CO seeped into the room in which he was sleeping through the a/c system.
SOME SUGGESTIONS, PLEASEI’d like to take this CO awareness “show” on the road in my local community. Maybe I can band with some local hvacr contractors, fire departments, equipment manufacturers, etc. I’d like to get the word out to people in my area and let you, the readers, know about my efforts.
I know that our trade can do so much for the health and safety of our customers. We provide IAQ testing and we sell, install, and service equipment that, if not maintained properly, can do more harm than good. We have an obligation to inform, don’t we?
If you have any ideas that have worked for you or suggestions, please contact me. C’mon, let’s band together to save more lives.
Hall is business management editor. He can be reached at 734-542-6214; 734-542-6215 (fax); firstname.lastname@example.org (e-mail).
Publication date: 03/25/2002