Carbon monoxide is a household threat we can defend

Most of us have heard of Carbon Monoxide (CO) dangers. It is a gas produced during the burning process of various fuels, including coal, wood, charcoal, oil, kerosene, propane and natural gas.

Products and equipment powered by internal combustion engines such as portable generators, cars, lawn mowers and power washers also produce CO. Many of these are used so frequently that we become complacent with their use. Other times the danger slips our mind. The deadly CO produced in those type devices can’t be smelled, seen, felt or tasted. We need you to remember that it’s there!

Now we have a new twist on our CO concerns. Keyless ignition cars are great if used properly. But like other CO producers, can be deadly if we don’t take proper precautions. Many of these new cars have quiet running engines and exhaust systems. So we can forget they are running once we pull into an enclosed garage. In addition the “driver’s routine” of arriving home, turning off a key and getting out has been altered in keyless ignitions. Some drivers are occasionally forget the car is running in the garage. If you have one of these new cars, immediately enact new safety measures. If your new car is a little different, no problem. But please ensure you are using this new tool safely.

Who’s dying from CO exposure? More than 500 people a year nationwide. And 15,000 are going to the ER. In the city of Hialeah a few years ago, carbon monoxide entered a hotel and killed five 19-year-olds celebrating a birthday. Investigators believe that starter problems plagued their car so they left it running near the room. Last month in Ft. Lauderdale, a father died and his wife and daughter were rushed to ER in bad shape. The culprit likely was unknowingly leaving a car running in the garage. Locally we’ve had boater and generator fume deaths, gas cooking and heating issues and many more. Sad stories dominate an Internet search.

If you want a little more info, take a look at the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC). Their website is <> and good info comes with the search of “CO Safety”.

So here is priority number 1: Install some CO or combo smoke/CO alarms. (As of this writing, they can be found for $21 at the Pinecrest Home Depot). In addition, be cautious with generators and gas appliances. Create a dialog with the family about CO and car safety in the garage. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, tell your kids to help you remember the safety issues and you’ll never forget again. They are relentless! Review the MDFR website to get some additional pointers.

Capt. Jack Swerdloff is a South Dade EMS Supervisor with the Miami Dade Firefighters. He is a frequent contributor to this newspaper and be contacted at

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