The last time I saw my parents alive was the day after my wedding, Sunday, August 5, 2007.
Sometime between Friday, October 12, 2007 at 8:00 PM and Saturday, October 13, 2007 at 8:00 AM they died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Shocking, I know. They were only 61 and 58 respectivelyâ€¦far too young to die, especially in such a senseless way.
For those of you who donâ€™t know, carbon monoxide is odorless, colorless and is the second-leading cause of poisoning deaths in the U.S. Carbon monoxide poisoning claims nearly 500 lives and another 15,000 require emergency room treatment each year. It can kill you before you know it because you canâ€™t see it, smell it, or taste it. A water heater in my parents’ kitchen was the culprit; a vent was damaged and emitted the poisonous gas into their home.
Unfortunately, they did not have a carbon monoxide detector.
In North America, only some state, provincial and municipal governments have statutes requiring installation of CO detectors in construction â€“ among them: Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin and West Virginia, as well as New York City.
By January 1, 2013 (in California) all residential, including multi-family dwellings will be required to have carbon monoxide alarms. Fire Marshalls will not be going door-to-door to see if homes have one installed, but the law does allow for fines up to $200 after a 30-day notice is issued.
Law or no law, please, please, please check that your home has a CO detector and if it does not, get one immediately!! The life you save could be your own.
CO detectors retail for $20-$60 and are widely available. They can either be battery-operated or AC powered (with or without a battery backup). Battery lifetimes have been increasing as the technology has developed and certain battery powered devices now advertise a battery lifetime of over 6 years. All CO detectors have â€œtestâ€ buttons like smoke detectors.
CO detectors can be placed near the ceiling or near the floor because CO is very close to the same density as air.
Since CO is colorless, tasteless and odorless, detection in a home environment is impossible without such a warning device. It is a highly toxic inhalant and attracts to the hemoglobin (in the blood stream) 200x faster than oxygen, producing inadequate amounts of oxygen traveling through the body.
Carbon monoxide is produced by appliances and other devices that generate combustion fumes, such as those that burn gas or other petroleum products, wood and other fuels. The danger occurs when too much carbon monoxide accumulates in a contained, poorly ventilated space.
Although the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning can be subtle, the condition is a life-threatening medical emergency. Get immediate care for anyone who may have carbon monoxide poisoning.
The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. High levels of CO inhalation can cause loss of consciousness and death. Unless suspected, CO poisoning can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms mimic other illnesses. People who are sleeping or intoxicated can die from CO poisoning before ever experiencing symptoms.
For more information, please visit the Public Safety and Security Information Hub website.
To read more about my personal story, visit my blog, Letters For Lucas.
Photo credit: Judy Van der Velden