Deadly Air: The Dangers of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

He loved to work on his 1993 Honda Prelude Classic; she was an animal lover and trainer. The Elkhart County couple was found dead inside their home of carbon monoxide poisoning. They were both 28 years old.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas that can kill humans by binding to hemoglobin, preventing oxygen from being carried throughout the body. Produced by combustion of fuels, carbon monoxide is found in sources such as the following:

  • Furnaces and gasoline, natural gas, propane and charcoal-burning devices
  • Poorly maintained vents or chimneys
  • Fireplaces and portable heaters

While alarms cannot prevent a fire or carbon monoxide poisoning, they can alert you and your family members to the presence of smoke while you are sleeping, or if there are dangerous levels of CO at any time of day. CO safety tips include the following:

  • Keep fuel-burning appliances maintained.
  • Do not use a charcoal-burning device in an enclosed space.
  • Do not use a gas stove to heat a kitchen.
  • If your CO alarm sounds, move all house members outside immediately.
  • Call emergency services and do not reenter the home.

Chronic carbon monoxide poisoning is often mistaken for the flu. Symptoms include the following:

  • Throbbing headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Delirium and fatigue

Mitch Rider and his girlfriend Jamie Hooker were found dead in their bed. The coroner report noted that each had a blood level of approximately 80 percent, well over the 40 percent level considered toxic. Dying along with their pets, the young couple had accidentally left a car running in an attached garage.

Although CO poisoning often results from using old or defective appliances, careless mistakes can also cause you to inhale deadly levels of carbon monoxide. With cold weather approaching, keep your appliances in proper working order, refresh the batteries in your smoke and CO alarms and never warm up your car in a closed garage.