On December 21, the Monroe County 911 received a call about a possible carbon monoxide poisoning on Monroe Road 580, near Stoutsville. The Monroe City Fire Department, Monroe City Ambulance and Monroe County Sheriff’s office and several first responders arrived and found three individuals in the residence in different states of consciousness.

Peter J. Klassen, 69, of the residence was pronounced deceased at the scene. Brenda J. Buckman, 63, of the residence was transported by helicopter to a Columbia hospital and then transferred to Kansas City for further treatment. Buckman was later released after treatment and is home recovering. A minor child was also in the residence and was flown to a nearby hospital, treated and released.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that can be deadly. Because carbon monoxide is found in the fumes produced when fuel is burned, it is present in and around homes. As a result, homeowners should be aware of carbon monoxide and make every effort to detect its presence.

Carbon monoxide forms most readily when there is insufficient oxygen to complete combustion and produce carbon dioxide. Hot water closets, furnaces in crawlspaces, heating appliances in attics, and other contained areas are common areas where carbon monoxide can form.

Monroe County Sheriff David Hoffman stated, “High carbon monoxide readings were present in the home,” adding, “Please do yourself and your family a favor and replace the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.”

Carbon monoxide has earned the moniker “the silent killer” because it cannot be identified without the presence of a carbon monoxide detector. If a person believes he or she is smelling carbon monoxide, that person is probably mistaking the odor for other combustion byproducts that the human nose can sense.

Carbon monoxide detectors can save lives and should be installed in all homes and apartments. The National Fire Protection Association says carbon monoxide detectors “shall be centrally located outside of each separate sleeping area in the immediate vicinity of the bedrooms.” Individuals should follow the manufacturer instructions regarding where on the wall or ceiling the carbon monoxide detectors should be mounted. As an added safety precaution, carbon monoxide detectors should be placed on every floor of the home.

Gas sensors in carbon monoxide alarms have limited life spans, so they should be replaced generally every five to six years, because calibrating and testing for carbon monoxide is more difficult than simply replacing the alarms.

Many people are aware of the threat posed by carbon monoxide. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least 430 people die from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning in the United States each year, noting that carbon monoxide is the leading cause of fatal poisonings throughout North America.

The CDC points out that instances of carbon monoxide poisoning are entirely preventable, which might surprise many of the estimated tens of thousands of people in the United States who visit emergency rooms to be treated for carbon monoxide poisoning each year. Learning to recognize signs of carbon monoxide poisoning and how to prevent it can help people avoid its harmful effects and potentially save lives.

The National Center for Environmental Health says that breathing carbon monoxide can cause a variety of symptoms, including headache, dizziness, vomiting, or nausea. Infants, the elderly and people with chronic heart disease, anemia, or breathing problems are more likely to get sick from carbon monoxide exposure than children, adults and people without the aforementioned conditions.

Even those people who do not lose their lives to moderate or severe carbon monoxide poisoning can suffer long-term health consequences, including an increased risk of heart disease, as a result of their exposure. There are steps that can be taken to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning from occurring. The steps include: Do not run a motor vehicle, generator, pressure washer or any gasoline-powered engine within 20 feet of an open window, door or vent. The exhaust from such items can vent into enclosed areas, increasing the risk of carbon monoxide exposure. Do not leave motor vehicles running in enclosed or partially enclosed spaces, such as a garage. Do not run generators, pressure washers or gasoline-powered inside basements, garages or other enclosed structures, even if windows are open. Do not operate charcoal grills, hibachis, lanterns or portable camping stoves indoors or insides tents or campers.

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