The Free Press, Mankato, MN

January 6, 2014

Our View: CO detector a must for every winter

Why it matters This intense heating season means residents should be on alert for carbon monoxide poisoning risks.

The Mankato Free Press

---- — The deaths of two area men are a wake-up call during this intense home-heating season.

Nathan Potter, 30, and Adam Jensen, 23, of rural Springfield died Dec. 20 after the furnace of the home they were in malfunctioned. The damper wasn’t working properly. The two suffered carbon monoxide poisoning.

Furnaces have been running long and hard for most Minnesota households this bitterly cold winter. Arctic temperatures mean many residents are using more heat than during a milder winter. Faulty combustion, gas leaks or blocked vents can easily turn heating deadly.

Carbon monoxide detectors have been available for years but sometimes seem to be taken less seriously than smoke detectors. Both are must-haves for homes. State law requires carbon monoxide detectors in all new and existing residential structures. A CO detector is required within 10 feet of all bedrooms.

One of the alarming characteristics about carbon monoxide poisoning is that it is often a silent killer, preying on its victims while they sleep. And if detectors aren’t in areas of the house where residents are going to hear them, they can’t be effective.

Each year about 14 Minnesota residents die from unintentional non-fire-related CO poisoning, and hundreds more end up seeking medical treatment because they’ve been exposed to CO, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

For those victims who are conscious when poisoning occurs, symptoms are headache, nausea and vomiting. If occupants suffer any of these, they shouldn’t assume everyone has a stomach bug and take to their beds. Make sure the CO detector is functioning properly.

Every winter carries its inherent dangers, including slippery roads, thin ice and hypothermia risks for those who work and play outdoors. Carbon monoxide poisoning in our heated homes is preventable. Furnaces may malfunction, but they don’t have to be killers if households take safety precautions.

It’s not too late to make a New Year’s resolution to make your home a safe place this heating season by making sure you have carbon monoxide detectors and checking that they are in working order.