Hurricane Sandy is continuing to kill people on the East Coast.

No, I’m not talking about people hit by falling trees, or any one else drowning. I’m referring to carbon monoxide poisoning deaths. So far in New Jersey alone, at least five people have died by being poisoned by the lethal gas, which came from gas- or diesel-fueled generators, according to The Star-Ledger of Newark.

Unfortunately, such tragedies often happen when people turn to generators in emergency situations, when they lose power and want to keep warm. With statewide power outages in New Jersey, and cold weather, residents and businesses have fired up generators while unaware of, or ignoring, the warnings about operating such devices.

Here’s the takeaway: Generators need to be operated outside, as far away from a residence, or any nearby residence, as possible. Officials in New Jersey are also warning residents not to use gas ovens, stoves or grills to heat their homes, according to The Ledger. They also pose a threat of causing carbon monoxide poisoning.

The carbon monoxide death count includes Rafael Reyes, a 55-year-old New Brunswick man, who The Ledger reported was found dead in his kitchen Thursday. A generator was on in his basement.

Gracie Dunston, a 59-year-old Trenton woman, was killed and seven members of her family fell ill from carbon monoxide poisoning, according to The Ledger. They had a generator and a propane heater on their first floor.

A man in Edison who had a generator on in his garage died this week. And finally, two 19-year-old Newark women, Mudiwa Benson and Kenya Barber, were killed Thursday by carbon monoxide from a generator that was operating close to their apartment window, The Ledger reported.

Steven Marcus, the director of New Jersey’s poison control center, told The Ledger that his office has been deluged with calls regarding carbon monoxide poisoning.

And there will likely be more deaths due to the treacherous gas, because many residents in the Tri-State area are still without power.


Well, let’s hope the death of Virginia Brecheisen, an 82-year-old woman from East Stroudsberg, Pa., will guarantee passage of a law requiring carbon monoxide detectors to be installed in many homes.

That was sentiment expressed by a writer for the Pocono Record in the wake of Brecheisen’s death last Thursday at her home on Kistler Street. She died of carbon monoxide poisoning on an upper level of her home after leaving her car running in her ground-level garage.

Pennsylvania State Reps. Mike Carroll and Mario Scavello are co-sponsoring a bill that they expect to pass next year. It mandates that all newly constructed and newly sold homes have carbon monoxide detectors, according to the Pocono Record.

The law would require residential buildings with “a fossil fuel-burning heater or appliance, fireplace or attached garage to have a carbon monoxide alarm installed whenever the building is sold,” according to the Pocono Times.

And multi-family rental units with fossil fuel-burning heating or an attached garage would also have to install carbon monoxide detectors within 12 months of the law passing, the Pocono Times reported.

One of the hitches of the bill is that it doesn’t mandate that current homeowners install carbon monoxide alarms unless they sell their homes.

Those covered under the bill who don’t install or maintain a carbon monoxide alarm can be fined $50, according to the Pocono Record. Anyone who tampers with or takes out the batteries of a carbon monoxide detector in a residential building would be subject to a $500 fine, with a second offense punishable by a $3,000 fine.

Two U.S. Senators last week introduced legislation that would give the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) the power to impose stricter standards for carbon monoxide detectors, according to the Echo Press of Alexandria, Minn.

Amy Klobucher, D-Minn., and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, are pushing for passage of the Nicholas and Zachary Burt Memorial Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act. The legislation is named after two young brothers from Kimball, Minn., who died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Snowe told the Echo Press that the legislation is needed nationally and in Maine in particular, where residents sometimes use indoor heaters — which can emit carbon monoxide — to warm up their homes in the cold northern winters.  That’s why consumers in Maine and other states need to be sure that their carbon monoxide alarms are working and safeguarding them, according to Snowe.

Obviously, the same can be said for Minnesota, which also has extraordinarily cold winters.

Essentially, the legislation would give the CPSC teeth in terms of making sure that carbon monoxide detectors are up to snuff and working. According to the Echo Press, the CPSC now only has voluntary standards for such detectors, which are set by Underwriters Laboratories.

Under the bill, these safety standards would become mandatory for all carbon monoxide detectors sold in the United States, the Echo Press reported. The legislation also lets the CPSC allocate resources to promote carbon monoxide detectors and educate the public about them.



In the winter, there are always carbon monoxide fatalities when people use gas generators to warm their homes. In the summer, gas generators used to run air conditioning are often to blame for giving off deadly fumes that kill.

Over the Fourth of July weekend a married couple was found dead inside their 29-foot cabin cruiser in New Smyrna Beach, Fla.  Howard Lupton, 50, and his wife Sandra, 48, of Palatka, Fla., were discovered by their son on Sunday morning.

 According to authorities, the Luptons had a generator operating in the engine room of their boat, apparently to air condition their bedroom. It’s believed carbon monoxide from that generator killed them. 

It’s happened before. Joy Hill, a spokewoman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, told the Palatka Daily News that this incident is the fourth such carbon monoxide poisoning she’s dealt with in more than a dozen years with the commission.

It is very sobering to realize how many people are affected by carbon monoxide every year. These incidents always go up during natural disasters or power outages, like the one affecting so many right now.

As much as we hear about carbon monoxide in the news, we rarely hear how many pets die. Smaller and more vulnerable, they are more likely to be overcome by these invisible fumes. Nebraska leads the country in carbon monoxide deaths and I was saddened to read that firefighters in Omaha reported that 9 dogs had died just last week from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Pets are particularly vulnerable during cold weather when they may be confined to a garage and exposed to car fumes. Dogs and cats are much more sensitive to carbon monoxide fumes than humans and any exposure to exhaust fumes is serious and sometimes fatal. Carbon monoxide poisoning, even in very low doses, is cumulative and can lead to death.

The warning signs of carbon monoxide in your pets include: drowsiness, lethargy, weakness and/or incoordination, bright red color to skin and gums, dyspnea (trouble breathing), coma, abrupt death and occasionally chronic (low-grade, long-term) exposure may cause exercise intolerance, changes in gait (walking), and disturbances of normal reflexes. If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning in your pet, remember, this is a warning sign that you and your family are at risk. Pets and small children are always the first affected.

If you care about your pets, install carbon monoxide detectors. They are an inexpensive way to protect you, your family and your pets. Don’t let your pet be the warning sign that you have carbon monoxide in your home.

– the legal times staff

January 6, 2009


DENVER — Investigators say a boiler vent damaged during a recent windstorm may have led to the high levels of carbon monoxide that left one college student dead.

Denver’s Chief Deputy Coroner Michelle Weiss-Samaras says 23-year-old Lauren Johnson died Monday after being taken from a third-floor unit at Josephine Place Apartments. Johnson and another woman were hospitalized.

University of Denver spokesman Jim Berscheidt says Johnson was a first-year graduate student at the school’s international-studies program. He says she was from Vancouver, Wash.

Authorities say a woman had called 911 shortly before 5 p.m. Monday saying she felt woozy.

Denver fire spokesman Lt. Phil Champagne says investigators found that carbon monoxide had leaked from a flue from the boiler. Champagne says whoever fixed the old flue vent cap did not attach it properly.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

Date: 12/28/2008 7:52 AM

Associated Press Writer

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Dozens of Liberian immigrants mourned Saturday at a house where seven members of their community died in a fire that a survivor said started when a kerosene heater spilled fuel and exploded as it was being moved outdoors.

Authorities have not released the names of all the victims, but fire survivor Harris Murphy said those trapped in the basement blaze were part of the large Liberian enclave in southwest Philadelphia.

The blaze broke out around 10:45 p.m. Friday in a three-story brick duplex and killed three adults and four children, including a 1-year-old boy, fire department Executive Chief Daniel Williams said.

Fire officials said six victims were found huddled together in the front of the basement, one of them cradling the baby. The seventh was found near the basement door.

The boy was later pronounced dead at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

The medical examiner said three of the children died of smoke inhalation and one adult died of smoke inhalation and burns. Four victims were identified as Henry W. Gbokoloi, 54, of Yeadon; 8-year-old Ramere Markese Wright-Dosso; 6-year-old Mariam Iyanya Dosso, and 1-year-old Zyhire Xzavier Wright-Teah. The three children all lived with their mother nearby.

Four people survived the fire, including Murphy, 35, who lives down the street but was watching a movie with others at the home when the flames erupted.

Fire marshals have not yet released the cause of the blaze, but Murphy said it started after a woman added fuel to a kerosene heater and, when it became too hot, tried to move it outside through the basement’s only door.

Some of the flaming liquid spilled out and set the carpet on fire, Murphy said.

The heater then “exploded,” he said.

Murphy said he ran into a basement bathroom with Gbokoloi and some children, got in the tub and turned on the shower to try to wait out the flames until firefighters arrived. After a few moments, he said, he decided to make a break for it because the smoke was thickening.

A preliminary investigation showed the basement had one exit to the exterior and that the interior basement stairs had been removed, the fire department said in a statement. The fire commissioner said no smoke detectors were in the house.

Some Liberians who came to the house Saturday morning did not know who died but, because of the home’s location, feared they would know one or more of the victims. The neighborhood is home to many of the city’s 15,000 Liberian immigrants.

Anthony Kesselly, president of the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas, lives nearby and said he knew Gbokoloi very well. He came to the house when he heard the news Saturday morning and was not surprised to see the growing crowd.

“We are very close-knit people,” Kesselly said.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.

Date: 12/25/2008 7:29 AM

BEIJING (AP) — Sixty-five elementary school students in northern China were poisoned by carbon monoxide after smoke from a dormitory boiler seeped into their rooms, state media reported Thursday.

Nineteen were still being treated in hospitals in Inner Mongolia, the official Xinhua News Agency said. Meng Lei, a regional health official, told Xinhua that none were in serious condition.

Calls to provincial and city authorities, including the health and education departments, were not answered Thursday.

The students at Niuchang Primary School in Hohhot, the regional capital, reported feeling dizzy after waking up on Wednesday, Xinhua said.

The poisoning was caused by smoke that leaked from a boiler in the students’ dormitory, Xinhua said.

Earlier this month, 11 girls died from carbon monoxide poisoning in their dorm room in Shaanxi province after blankets fell onto a charcoal heater they were using to keep warm.

Carbon monoxide detectors are not required in schools in China, though the Education Ministry last year suggested that schools that use coal heating should install them.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas. Moderate exposure can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea and mental confusion. Prolonged exposure can lead to death.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.

Date: 11/10/2008

BROOKINGS, S.D. (AP) _ Authorities in Brookings think a missing vent pipe was to blame in the apparent carbon monoxide poisoning deaths of a man and his daughter found in their home early Sunday.

The victims are Grant Holmstrum, 54, and Janna Holmstrum, 21.

Police Capt. Jeff Miller said the call came in shortly after 2 a.m. At first, police didn’t know what happened to the victims and performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation on them for some time, he said

The carbon monoxide affected some officers as well, Miller said. “Four officers also were taken and admitted to the hospital for exposure,” he said. “They were treated and released later that morning.”

Carbon monoxide has no detectable odor. Early symptoms such as headache, nausea and fatigue often are mistaken for the flu. It’s the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in the U.S.

People should consider getting their heating system checked out, Miller said.

“Especially, I guess, if you have an older furnace, it’s something that would be a good idea to have it periodically checked and certainly put in a carbon monoxide detector in your home,” Miller said.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.

Date: 11/8/2008

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) _ The Coast Guard says a 52-year-old barge worker has died after being found unresponsive on the ship as it traveled near New Haven Harbor.

Coast Guard Lieutenant Ellen Phillips says it appears that John Campagno died of carbon monoxide poisoning. An autopsy is planned.

Crew members on the barge tried to revive Campagno, but he was pronounced dead Saturday morning at Yale-New Haven Hospital. Authorities say his identifications listed addresses in North Carolina and Florida.

The Coast Guard says Campagno apparently worked and slept in a poorly ventilated section of the barge that contains a generator and heating unit.

The barge is owned by Burnham Associates Dredging & Marine Contractors of Salem, Mass.


Information from: The Day,

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.