Articles Posted in Carbon Monoxide Detectors

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Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas. It is quite toxic to humans and other oxygen-breathing organisms. Carbon monoxide poisoning happens when enough carbon monoxide is inhaled. (See carbon monoxide poisoning)

Low levels of carbon monoxide are always present in air. It can also be produced from incomplete combustion of flame fueled devices such as fireplaces, furnaces, stoves, vehicles, space heaters and others.

Breathing carbon monoxide fumes decreases the blood’s ability to carry oxygen. Low levels of oxygen can lead to cell death, including cells in vital organs such as the brain and heart.

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A family in Clinton, Iowa is teaming up with firefighters around the midwestern U.S. to turn a terrible tragedy into an educational program that will probably save many people from suffering deadly smoke inhalation or severe burns due to house fires.

Four members of the town’s Molitor family–two young boys, their mother, and their grandmother–all died of smoke inhalation after a chair caught fire in their Clinton home two years ago. The most heartbreaking aspect is that this was a small fire, which started in a chair. Unfortunately, the burning chair generated a lot of smoke quickly, and the family members who stayed too long in the house (rather than evacuating immediately and calling 911 from outside) were overcome by smoke, fell unconscious, and died. It takes just one or two breaths of smoky air to make a person pass out. In fact, 70 percent of all fire deaths are from smoke inhalation, not burns.

Furthermore, “there was not a smoke detector in the house, and there wasn’t even a heat detector,” said one family member recently. “There was nothing to alert some of them until it was too late. That is the worst part about it–this tragedy could have been prevented.”

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A few weeks ago in Kinston, NC, a utility worker was injured badly after 7,200 volts of electricity traveled through his body when he came in contact with an underground power wire. The worker, whose name was not released at press time, was working to fix a power outage when the incident happened. He was taken to the burn unit at UNC Hospital in Chapel Hill because he suffered second degree and third degree burns. One city official said the worker has second degree burns to his face and chest, and third degree burns to his arms and legs. The employee is a lineman who’s been with the city for 25 years. He was working on an underground primary line in a ditch when he was shocked.

That same week in Lake Katrine, NY, a faulty propane gas line caused a home fire that severely burned an elderly couple. The fire left the unidentified woman hospitalized in critical condition at Jacobi Medical Center in New York City, with burns over 90 percent of her body. The man was taken to Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla with burns on about 40 percent of his body. Neighbors trying to help the couple also suffered burns that required medical treatment.

Officials investigating the fire say it is likely that there was a leak in the line between an outdoor propane tank and the stove inside the home, which caused an explosion.

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On May 19, the Fire Smoke Coalition sent out a press release saying that it “applauds the Congressional Fire Services Institute’s (CFSI) National Advisory Council (NAC) passage of A Resolution to Address a New Epidemic: Smoke Inhalation at its April board meeting.” CFSI is a leading non-partisan policy institute designed to educate members of Congress on the needs of our nation’s fire and emergency services.

In its resolution, CFSI notes that there is mounting proof, obtained through atmospheric monitoring on fire grounds throughout the U.S., that hydrogen cyanide (HCN) is a predominant toxicant found in fire smoke. The resolution calls for educating the fire service about the dangers of smoke inhalation–including those of HCN–through support of a national education program, the development of HCN poisoning treatment protocols for all local and state emergency medical services (EMS), and efforts by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to establish a national database of smoke inhalation injuries, medical complications and deaths linked to HCN.

To learn even more about the Fire Smoke Coalition and about HCN poisoning, click on this link.