Silent and Deadly, CO poisoning (Carbon Monoxide)

PLEASE NOTE:  I’ve racked my brain trying to come up with a ‘featured photo’ for this post but it’s been difficult to find something that represents this topic that I am happy with.  I don’t like to publish posts without images but this one has waited far too long, the info is too important to delay any longer so you get it without an image for now.

Is a Life worth 40 bucks?

Of course it is.  It’s worth WAY MORE than that. What does $40 buy these days?

  • A family pizza night
  • two movie tickets and a bucket of popcorn and maybe a drink
  • an entrée and dessert at your favorite steak house.

It’s so easy to blow $40. Less than $40 would have saved a family from the horrendous heartache and grief that they are forced now to deal with.  This past weekend a Mom, Dad and 2 kids went to bed like they usually do but they didn’t wake up the next morning.  Instead of breathing mixture of usual gasses including Oxygen, they were inhaling and being slowly poisoned by an ever-increasing amount of CO gas, otherwise known as Carbon Monoxide.

Carbon Monoxide is a gas that’s a byproduct of combustion.  In this case it likely came from a water heater that was working to heat the water for the morning showers.  The gas should be vented outside of the house but for whatever reason it was quietly making it’s way into the living spaces shared by that family. CO gas is undetectable by humans.  It doesn’t have any color or odor that we can tell. If we are awake, we might feel the effects of CO in our bodies.  Some of the symptoms can be like when we have the flu.

  • Body Aches
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

A few other signs are chest pain and confusion. When high CO levels are reached then unconsciousness and death can follow. CO is easier for our blood cells to absorb so if it’s in the air it ‘butts’ in line in front of the Oxygen…so there’s no more room for the oxygen when the CO is taking all the space on the blood cells.

The treatment is simple when caught early. Get out, find fresh air and call 911. I work part-time for the Fire/EMS Dept in my town and we get calls for CO alarms quite a lot.  Usually it’s nothing, a faulty detector or dead battery, but we always respond as if IT IS something because sometimes it is.  We have equipment that will tell us exactly how much CO is present and where it’s coming from.

I’d venture to guess that most of you reading this…probably 90% have smoke detectors installed in your homes.  It’s just what we do.  They warn us when smoke is present and often with smoke there is fire…or at least burned bacon (what?  me, I never burn bacon 😉 ) CO detectors do the same thing when Carbon Monoxide is present.  They sound an alarm when the CO numbers get to a certain PPM (part per million) to warn us.  These little life-savers are required in all newly built homes. However, many existing or older homes don’t have them.  But we all should.

I’m sure every person who reads of the tragedy that happened to the Idaho family made a quick mental inventory about whether they had CO detectors installed in their homes. I want my readers to do better than that. Go one step further, don’t just think about if you do or not:

IF YOU DO; test it, make sure the batteries (or battery back-up) are good, better yet, change them out with fresh batteries.

IF YOU DON’T, Remedy that situation now.  You can visit your local hardware store and pick up a detector or order online.

Better yet, grab a Multi-pack and gift one to your elderly neighbor, or the new family that just moved in next door. These also make thoughtful gifts for kids moving away to college, gifts for showers or weddings and they make great housewarming gifts. Fire-extinguishers are another of my  favorite gifts to give. I’m practical that way… it’s not the most romantic gift to open but the life-saving capabilities of these gifts far surpass yet another set of matching towels.

Such a sad and preventable mortal ending for a beautiful family.  My hope is that by sharing this story, a horribly sad day for another family won’t have to happen.

So… I want to know the percentages on CO detectors in your homes.  Just give me a quick “yes, we have one” or “No, but we will get one” comment below, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out” is also an acceptable answer.

To find out more about keeping your family safe from Carbon Monoxide poisoning, click over to the CDC’s page.


  1. cheri says:

    We have one installed on each floor

  2. We have one! The alarm warned us one night when CO levels were high. The fire department checked for us and we did indeed have a problem that was very quickly and easily remedied. I sleep so much easier now, knowing that we’ll have a warning when something’s not right.

    Thanks for the reminder!

  3. Such an important issue! Here’s the thing, I think I qualify as having a “new” home (2010), but I don’t know if we have any. (Lame, I know. Hit me.) Are CO detectors ever combined with smoke detectors in the same unit?

    • Andrea says:

      Yes, they are combined with smoke detectors in new construction. Ours are wired on a circuit with battery back up so it we push the test button on one, they all go off in succession. Give it a try…just make sure no one is napping when you do it 🙂 This also makes it easier to do a drill in the middle of the night…you just have to push one of them for the whole house to hear.

  4. Yep, we have one!! I’m so paranoid about this, so it’s definitely a must-have! Thank you so much for sharing!!

  5. Charlyne says:

    We have them and are checked and in good shape. Thank you for this reminder.

  6. Dan says:

    Have them, but haven’t checked batteries lately…doh!