Wednesday's Words, by Morgan Ashbury

Twice in the space of the last week or so, tragedies have struck in two separate incidents that were headlined on the US evening news. Those two stories centered on twelve deaths, that were completely preventable. I’m sure you know the news stories I’m referring to. The first was in Baltimore. A father and his seven children, aged 6 to 15 died in their sleep a week ago Monday, as the result of carbon monoxide poisoning.

With no electricity in their rented house, the family was using a gas fed generator for heat.

Then, the following Friday afternoon, in Queens, New York, and elderly couple and two other older people were discovered to have perished. The suspected cause, again, was carbon monoxide poisoning—this time from a car left running in an attached garage.

You may recall that more than a year ago, in March of 2014, I penned an essay about the dangers of exposure to carbon monoxide.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless and tasteless gas that can kill. The only way it can be detected is with an approved CO (the periodic symbol for carbon monoxide) detector/alarm.

Here in the Province of Ontario having such a device in your home is the law. The really good news is that a CO detector can be had for a fairly modest sum—usually under 25 dollars.

If the home in Baltimore and the home in Queens had each been equipped with these detectors—a combination of fifty dollars worth of technology—then 12 people who are now dead, seven of them children with their entire lives ahead of them—would now be alive.

Carbon monoxide is a four-season killer, as people have various gas appliances in their homes. Misuse of these appliances, improper installation, even stupidity can all contribute to tragedies like these.

Tragedies that, I say again, are completely preventable.

As I was looking for the facts on the above two cited cases, I came upon a third one, a story I had not seen on the news.

A mother, 29, and her 7 year old daughter died in their East Orange, New Jersey home the week of April 1, also from carbon monoxide poisoning. The culprit was once again a gas generator, this one in the basement, and not properly ventilated.

The night before her death, this young mother had been chatting on Face Book with a relative. According to that relative, she had said they should get together soon, because with death and sickness, life was just too short not to.

That young mother had no idea how true her words would prove to be.

Maybe, if I write about this one more time, someone who might not understand the nature of this silent killer will finally get it, and take that one, very simple yet vital preventative measure.

I’m going to repeat myself.  Carbon monoxide is a “four season” killer, as a lot of us have homes that are fuelled by combustible fuels—not just our furnaces in the cold weather, but our hot water heaters, and our kitchen stoves as well. In truth, it’s not just natural gas that can create carbon monoxide, but all other fossil fuels as well. If you burn wood in a fireplace and it’s not vented right—or if you try to use a charcoal barbecue indoors—you’re creating carbon monoxide. Yes, the gas is odorless, colorless and tasteless, but in the last two examples, the killer gas is wrapped up in wood smoke.

If you don’t already have a carbon monoxide detector in your home, get one. They’re available at Wal-Mart, Lowes, Home Depot, Ace Hardware, and even on Amazon!

Please, please, please, spread the word. A CO detector can be life saving—and the life it could save might be your own, your spouse’s, you children’s, your grandchildren’s or your neighbor’s.


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