Approximately 24 children under the age of 14 die from carbon monoxide poisoning each year, with an additional 3,500 emergency room reported injuries, according to the National SAFE KIDS Campaign (www.safekids.org).
Young children are especially vulnerable to the effects of carbon monoxide (CO) and may show symptoms sooner than a healthy adult. Because of their smaller bodies, children process CO differently than adults and may be more severely affected by it. In addition to death, carbon monoxide can cause severe learning disability, memory loss, and personality changes.
Often called “the silent killer,” Carbon monoxide is an invisible and odorless gas that is produced when burning any fuel, such as gasoline, propane, natural gas, oil, wood, and charcoal. Carbon monoxide causes illness by decreasing the amount of oxygen present in a person’s body.
CO poisoning can often be mistaken for other illnesses, such as the flu. The most common symptoms include headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and confusion. In severe cases, the person may lose consciousness or die. Often, other people in the place of business or household will exhibit similar symptoms.
To decrease the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning in your home, install CO detectors outside every bedroom. Install the detectors at least 15 feet from a source of CO to eliminate nuisance alarms. Hardwire detectors if possible, and check every six months. Do not heat your home or camper with your stovetop or use a camp stove, grill, or generator inside your home or camper. Do not leave a car or motorcycle running in your garage even if the garage door is open. Install a CO detector in your boat cabin; CO can accumulate anywhere in or around a boat. Have your fireplace, stove, and furnace checked regularly by a professional.
Sometimes carbon monoxide poisoning is caused in part by the negligence of a landlord, repair technician, or faulty piece of equipment. Landlords and professional service technicians are held to the highest standards of accountability for the safety of those they serve.
West Virginia landlords are required to maintain a leased property in a condition that meets requirements of applicable health, fire, and safety housing codes. West Virginia mandates in W.Va. Code Section 29-3-16a that any residence built after 1998 be equipped with carbon monoxide detectors. The federal government, through the International Residence Code (ICR) 315.2, further mandates carbon monoxide detectors must be installed in anyone or two-family home that either has a fuel-fired appliance or heating unit or is attached to a building containing such appliance if any work is planned for that home that requires a building permit.
If CO poisoning is detected, vacate the area immediately and seek emergency help. Avoid re-entry until the fire department deems it safe.
For information about negligence, catastrophic injury, and wrongful death, see: