As the temperatures lower, the furnaces in homes kick in. With winter heating season, the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning is a real worry.
Carbon monoxide is a gas that can have serious consequences if not responsibly monitored. It is described by the Environmental Protection Agency as “an odorless invisible gas produced when gasoline, natural gas, propane, kerosene and other fuels are not completely burned during use.”
According to the EPA, it is one of the leading causes of poisoning death. Brett Lambrecht, the emergency manager for Richland County, explained that it is very important to keep a CO2 detector in the house.
“CO2 (carbon monoxide) can be more dangerous then fire. It’s called the silent killer,” Lambrecht said.
Improper ventilation can be the culprit for extreme amounts of carbon monoxide in a home, as well as a furnace malfunctioning or a garage that is connected to the house.
Hankinson resident Vern Vellenga had his own experience dealing with carbon monoxide poisoning when his granddaughter was sickened a few years ago and had to be life-flighted to Minneapolis for treatment during an overnight stay in Church Camp.
A number of Hankinson youth, as well as young people from all over the state, had attended the camp and faced different degrees of poisoning when a furnace began to malfunction. Marlee Vellenga, Vellenga’s granddaughter, was unfortunate enough to be sleeping near a vent that was pumping out carbon monoxide. She was placed in a hyperbaric chamber in Minneapolis to draw the poisonous gas out of her body.
Fortunately there were no lasting effects, but it did give Vellenga a strong stance on having functioning detectors in buildings and keeping them up to date with routine checks.
“To me it’s a must,” he said.
Vellenga has even spoken with state legislators about requiring buildings to require CO2 detectors. “They should be the same as fire alarms,” he said.
Because excess carbon monoxide is so deadly, the EPA has some suggestions for homeowners at this time of year:
• Make sure appliances are installed and vented properly
• Inspect homes after heavy snow fall and make sure snow is removed from exhaust vents.
The EPA also reminds people to not use ovens for heating a home and don’t leave a car running in a closed garage. Lambrecht said that citizens who are concerned that their home may have a carbon monoxide problem can contact their gas provider.