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Carbon Monoxide: The Ghost Killer

Updated on January 2, 2011

Last night, I almost killed my entire family.

I am not the violent type; I don't get myself into any dangerous activities, and most of my friends would describe me as overly cautious. Unfortunately, these qualities don't completely obliterate the chances of my actions causing injury, or even death. It could happen as quickly as looking at the radio while driving and hitting another car or pedestrian, or I could accidentally leave the oven on after baking and burn half the house down. The effects simply can not compare to the frivolous mistake previously made.

Last night, I almost killed my entire family. I was running late from a long dance practice, and my tutor was supposed to arrive at my home in a couple of minutes. As soon as I got home, I parked in the garage, and must have forgotten to turn my car off. I was too busy running upstairs to even realize. Thirty minutes into my tutoring session my step-dad came home and told me that my car was still running. At first I felt embarrassed, and I couldn't stop making excuses. It was impossible to focus for the rest of the night; I ended the session early and sat down to think about what happened. Had no one come home, my sister, step-dad, mom, and two dogs may have all been found dead the next day. This sounds way too graphic, but it's the truth. And it's all because I was in a hurry to meet with my tutor.

There are approximately 200 deaths per year related to unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning. These deaths can be attributed to anywhere from improperly installed heaters to the fumes released by fires. The worst part is that you most likely won't know it when it hits you; the gas is colorless, odorless, and if you're exposed to large amounts right away, you'll probably just end up passing out and dying a few minutes later. People exposed to smaller amounts may hallucinate and experience a strong sense of dizziness, and if they're exposed to it long enough, they will end up passing away as well.

I never really thought about the dangers of this gas until I had my personal experience with it, but I remember hearing about a particular case about a year ago. A family living in Minnesota took a vacation to Longville where their family cabin was located; a faulty heater infiltrated their tiny vacation home with carbon monoxide and killed the couple in their sleep, and severely poisoned the son until he died in the hospital about two months later. There are countless stories related to fatalities from this silent killer. In Florida, a motel maid found five dead bodies of teenage boys who had left their car running all night while celebrating a friend's birthday inside their motel room. In Arizona, a family renting a boat were exposed to carbon monoxide leaking from the generator, which eventually killed one of the men in the boat. The effects are too tragic to brush off; there aren't many ways to prevent this type poisoning, since the gas is virtually undetectable for humans. However, one method seems to be very reliable.

Carbon monoxide detectors track the accumulation of CO over time, and sound when the levels become dangerous. They need to be plugged in to an electrical source at all times to work properly, unless you have a model that will generate electricity if the power cuts off at home. There should be a detector on every floor of your home, and they should be placed on an outlet that is far above the ground.

Don't let yourself be exposed to this danger. Don't give yourself a reason to worry. Take the precautions, know the signs. If you or anyone in your family are experiencing headaches any time they are in a certain place, there could be a leak. If the exposure gets worse, they may hallucinate or feel dizzy. Don't wait until the leak worsens and brings the side effects to the next level.


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    • dominiqueus8 profile image

      dominiqueus8 6 years ago

      Thanks for the extra info! I really appreciate your comment.

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 6 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Besides your car, if you've got a gas furnace in your home, then that could easily make you very sick, or kill you as well, and in the same manner.

      I'm an hvac guy though, so I sorta kinda deal with that situation often, and what I've done before, really, what I had to do, was disable someone's furnace completely, despite them saying that, "no, we need the heat right now."

      If a gas furnace's heat exchanger is cracked, then any decent hvac guy will disassemble the thing so as it can't be used at all. Really, such a system is trash, and should be replaced, but a heat exchanger CAN be replaced, but it's not worth the time or money to do that.

      Great article. :-D