The silent killer is on the loose

Gas stoves can cause a potential threat to your family's health if it is not burning correctly. Make sure to not have any burner left cracked since it could leak out too much carbon monoxide. Photo  courtesy of firesafetyplatform.org.
Gas stoves can cause a potential threat to your family’s health if it is not burning correctly. Make sure to not have any burner left cracked since it could leak out too much carbon monoxide. Photo courtesy of firesafetyplatform.org.

Winter has slipped into the Arizona lifestyle and so has the potential threat for a silent killer.

One family was feeling queasy and called the Fire Department who tested the air and found very high levels of the colorless, odorless gas.

Carbon monoxide kills nearly 200 people per year in the United States from malfunctioning in-home appliances, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Common signs of carbon monoxide poisoning are similar to symptoms of the influenza virus – nausea, vomiting, dizziness, tiredness – which is why so many people tend to ignore their symptoms, said Capt. Barrett Baker, Public Information Officer at

A list of the signs to watch out for when you may have carbon monoxide poisoning. Photo courtesy of ccbh.net.
A list of the signs to watch out for when you may have carbon monoxide poisoning. Photo courtesy of ccbh.net.

Tucson Fire Department.

“Eventually, you will loose consciousness and there’s a chance you might not wake up,” said Baker.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that can cause sudden illness or death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is found in combustion fumes, such as those produced by car engines, gas ranges or heating systems, as well as wood or oiled fueled appliances.

Fire officials want to remind people with the cooler weather to make sure all your gas appliances are working properly.

The best thing to do is recognize the signs and install a carbon monoxide detector in your home, said Baker.

Capt. Baker is the Public Information Officer in charge of alerting the media of important issues related to the fire department. Photo by Casey Woollard
Capt. Baker is the Public Information Officer in charge of alerting the media of important issues related to the fire department. Photo by Casey Woollard

“If you have a natural gas stove, you don’t want to leave anything in a cracked position accidentally,” said Baker. “Trust your instincts. If you think something is wrong, shut it down, get out and call somebody. Change your [furnace] filters out, vacuum it, get all of the things you can do by yourself out of the way. Manufacturers will always have recommendations as to how often you should have those things maintenanced. Just defer to that.

If you are familiar with the bad things that can happen from using carbon monoxide products, you can learn from them.”

“I remember the scary feeling I had when the fire department told me I had 30 minutes to live if I did not get out of my home,” said Debbi White, a carbon monoxide survivor who had to be hospitalized for four days after her furnace spewed out high amounts of carbon monoxide.

The best option to do in situations like these is to get fresh air immediately, said Baker.

Luckily, Tucson has a high number of people switching to better appliances that will have automatic shut off switches, said Baker. In order to get those appliances, it is up to the homeowners associations to make that change.

If you suspect your home might have a carbon monoxide leak, fire officials recommend calling them and not opening any windows to flush the home. That way, using special instruments, they can determine if there is a carbon monoxide problem in your home.

Casey Woollard is a reporter for the Arizona Sonora News Service from the school of journalism at the University of Arizona. Reach her at caseyawoollard@email.arizona.edu

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