Oct 182011
 
Authors: Sarah Fenton

It’s known as a silent killer. Odorless, scentless and tasteless, carbon monoxide often goes undetected until its too late.

According to Cpt. Patrick Love, spokesman for the Poudre Fire Authority, carbon monoxide is a threat that is not adequately addressed in community education.

Love said that because of this educational lag, approximately 500 people in the U.S. die from carbon monoxide poisoning every year.

“I don’t think people are educated enough about the dangers of carbon monoxide,” Love said. “That’s because we’re still responding to a good portion of carbon monoxide incidents and injuries here (in Fort Collins).”

According to Love, carbon monoxide poisoning takes a toll on the body, often causing flu-like
symptoms that make misdiagnosis of the illness a common setback in determining treatment.

“Carbon monoxide will cause people to feel like they’re incurring flu symptoms,” Love said. “They could be vomiting, they could also have cherry-red skin, they feel very tired, and sometimes they may even not think clearly.”

In 2009 because of two carbon monoxide incidents that resulted in five deaths, the Lofgren and Johnson Families Carbon Monoxide Safety Act was signed into law in Colorado. The law requires certain residences to install carbon monoxide detectors around multiple rooms.

According to Love, this legislation has been a major step in the right direction for preventing carbon monoxide incidents.

And although he had no official statistics on how the legislation has impacted incidents in Fort Collins, Love said the attention the law attracted had significant effects on public interest in the subject.

“After that law passed, for a good portion of that year there was a lot of public awareness about carbon monoxide and actually quite a few of the hardware stores in the Fort Collins area ran out of carbon monoxide alarms, they were just selling too quickly,” Love said.

Much like a smoke detector in its function and purpose, a carbon monoxide detector is designed to measure levels and alert residents when there are dangerous levels of the gas.

Senior political science major Cassi Nichols said she can’t afford not to have a carbon monoxide detector after her aunt was killed from carbon monoxide poisoning. Nichols also attributes her careful attention to the fact that she has her two-year-old child to think about.

“Oh yes, we have one,” Nichols said. “It’s very important.”

This is a positive thing in Love’s eyes. He said that it is this kind of public awareness that the Poudre Fire Authority reaches for.

“We try for people to be aware and educated, the other part is that we want them to keep that vigilance. We want people to be aware of how to prevent incidents, as well as how to react or respond if there is one,” Love said.

As a public information officer, Love feels his duty is to help raise the community’s awareness on the danger of carbon monoxide, especially for students living on their own for the first time.

According to Tonie Miyamoto, director of communications and sustainability for Housing and Dining Services Administration, students living in residence halls or campus apartments don’t need to be concerned about carbon monoxide poisoning because none of the appliances in the CSU’s residential areas are gas powered.

However, if you live off campus it is suggested that you talk to your landlord about what precautions are in place at your residence. For more information, check out www.poudre-fire.org.

Collegian writer Sarah Fenton can be reached at news@collegian.com.

Safety tips

1. Know where in your house carbon monoxide comes from.

2. Be on the lookout for flu-like symptoms.

3. If an alarm goes off, evacuate the building and call 9-1-1.

4. If you have been exposed, play it safe. Get as much fresh air as possible and call 9-1-1.

5. Install a carbon monoxide detector if you don’t already have one.

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