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January 25, 2014

In Our Opinion: Lesson to be learned from a close call

The Daily Star

---- — A Garrattsville couple is lucky to be alive after carbon monoxide filled their home earlier this month.

Dan Morehouse woke up in the middle of the night with chest pain, which, he said later, he thought was caused by his asthma. “But after I used my inhaler and the pain continued, I knew something was wrong,” he said.

 After he went downstairs, he said, he began to vomit. When his wife, Linda, when downstairs to check on her husband, she collapsed.

“It felt like I had no energy at all,” Linda said. “Almost like having the flu.”

She said she initially thought of the oven, which she had cleaned earlier in the day.

“I thought the fumes were making us sick,” she said, “so I opened a door to let some air in. I was able to get to the couch and I remember we were saying to each other ‘we should call 911.’”

Dan was able to call 911, and the couple, and their pets, survived.

A clogged exhaust on the propane boiler used to heat the Morehouses’ home caused the buildup of carbon monoxide, and the carbon-monoxide detector in the house was defective.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that comes from the incomplete burning of natural gas and any other material containing carbon. If the gas is not properly vented, it can build up in a home, causing headache, fatigue, dizziness, drowsiness or nausea. If levels are high enough, it can cause death.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, carbon monoxide poisoning causes more than 400 deaths, 20,000 emergency room visits and 4,000 hospitalizations every year in America.

Carbon monoxide poisoning can be a problem all year long, but it occurs often in the wintertime here because more people are using furnaces and boilers to heat their homes, and very little fresh air is let into a home.

There are steps that can be taken to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.

First and foremost, make sure you have a carbon monoxide detector, and that it is working. Batteries should be replaced every six months, and the detector should be replaced every five to seven years.

Have your heating system, water heater and any other gas-, oil- or coal-burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year, and make sure any wood-burning stoves are vented properly.

If you have any signs of carbon monoxide poisoning, get into fresh air and call 911.

Also pay attention to your pets. The Morehouses’ dog refused to go downstairs. “She sleeps downstairs,” Dan said of Sweet Pea, “but that night when I tried to bring her down, she didn’t want to go and she threw up. I think she sensed something was wrong.”

We’re glad the Morehouses were able to recover fully from their close call, but we can also let that close call be a lesson for us all.