As winter progresses and people spend more time indoors, a silent killer lurks -- carbon monoxide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), carbon monoxide poisoning results in 15,000 emergency room visits and 400 wrongful deaths every year in the United States. In just the last week of December, at least three families suffered serious injuries or were accidentally killed by the colorless, odorless, tasteless gas. Many of its victims die without waking.
- In the last week of December, five teenagers in Hialeah, Florida, were celebrating a birthday in a hotel room. They had left a car running in a garage below. All five teens died.
- On December 28, a young family in Bridgeport, Connecticut, was sent to the emergency room after accidental carbon monoxide exposure.
- On that same day, two people were killed and three were sickened by carbon monoxide exposure in a Baltimore row house.
"Every year, when I hear about deaths like these, I am heartbroken," Paul Garbe, the CDC's branch chief for air pollution and respiratory health told reporters for USA TODAY. "They're totally preventable."
Tragic as these injuries and deaths are, they can also lead to costly premises liability claims for homeowners and landlords. If someone is injured or killed due to a property owner's negligence, that person or their survivors may seek compensation from that person.
CDC Recommends Two Steps to Prevent Accidental Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Garbe of the CDC says there are two important steps to take to prevent exposure to carbon monoxide in the home.
- First, have your heating system and appliances serviced. Any appliance that burns gas, oil or coal can produce carbon monoxide if it is not working or vented properly. Have your furnace, water heater and other fuel-burning appliances checked by a qualified technician each year.
Second, install carbon monoxide detectors. They should be installed on
each floor, especially where there are bedrooms. The best models plug
into an electrical outlet but also have a battery backup so they go off
even if the electricity goes out.
"If you hear it go off," says Garbe, "run from the house and then find a way to call 911. Don't call 911 first."
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headaches, nausea, confusion and fatigue, and are frequently mistaken for flu symptoms. People who are sleeping may not wake up without an alarm. The higher level inhaled, the greater the chance of serious injury and death.
Source: The Tennessean, "Carbon monoxide is winter's 'silent killer,'" Janice Lloyd, January 4, 2011