By Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.


It is the time of year when almost everyday there is a story in the news media about carbon monoxide poisoning and too often death. Today’s tragedy happened in Jefferson Township, Michigan where a family was poisoned with one death. Cass County Michigan Carbon Monoxide Poisoning  Fortunately, one family member was oriented enough to manage to call 911 before the they all were unconscious. The call saved five family members but was not made in time to save Andrew A. Weston, 43, from Columbus, Indiana who died from the carbon monoxide poisoning. Mr. Wilson was apparently adjacent to the source of the carbon monoxide poisoning, a pool heater.

The home did not have a carbon monoxide detector and the fate of the survivors rested in recognition by the person who called 911 that the symptoms were serious enough to warrant emergency intervention, before she lost consciousness. This tragedy illustrates just how important carbon monoxide detectors are.

The symptoms of carbon monoxide are easily confused with other maladies such as the flu or head ache. Thus, without a carbon monoxide detector, the recognition that the victim is not feeling well, may not be translated to alarm that carbon monoxide is the source of the symptoms.

Ironically, one story addressed the welfare of the family dog, who apparently did not sound the alarm. This winter alone, we have heard three different stories where it was the family dog, without likely being able to detect the odorless gas, still alerted family members to the problems. My theory as to why the dogs sound alarm is that carbon monoxide probably makes them feel that they are about to have an “accident” and thus they demand the owners attention to let them out.

With a carbon monoxide detector, this should not be left to chance. But as we learned so clearly in the case of the carbon monoxide detectors in our school poisoning cases, if that detector is not where it can be heard when it goes off, it will do no good. Many regulations are now requiring detectors in the areas where the furnaces and water heaters are. But as such carbon burning appliances are often in secure fire safe rooms, they may not be loud enough to wake someone from what too often becomes increasingly deep sleep. Before someone dies from carbon monoxide, they will lapse into coma.

We have it on good authority that the family dog can be of assistance here as well. As the dogs hearing is so much better than our own, even a distance carbon monoxide detector sounding will likely make the dog bark. If you are feeling bad and your dog is unusually animated, call 911.

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