Finding a silent killer: TEMS gets grant for carbon monoxide detectors
TORONTO — The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 400 Americans die each year from carbon monoxide poisoning not linked to fires and more than 24,000 are treated by hospitals after inhaling the gas.
Clark Crago, director of the TEMS Joint Ambulance District, said because it is colorless and odorless, people often don’t know they have been exposed to it until it’s too late.
“We know it’s the silent killer,” he said.
But personnel with the ambulance service have been armed with small, portable devices that will enable them to detect carbon monoxide when responding to any call.
Funding came from a $1,000 grant from the Public Entities Pool of Ohio and the assistance of the Anderson-Campbell Insurance Agency.
Crago noted common symptoms of CO exposure include headache, weakness, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, shortness of breath, confusion, blurred vision and loss of consciousness.
He noted the gas can be particularly dangerous to people who are sleeping or intoxicated because it can cause irreversible brain damage before they realize there’s a problem. It’s also been found to be most harmful to children and adults with chronic health conditions.
Crago said he and his staff can use the devices to determine if a patient is in an environment heavy in carbon monoxide while protecting themselves against the gas.
He said the handheld devices will be attached to the medical bag carried by each ambulance squad member.
Crago noted they are more sensitive than the CO detectors residents can use in their homes, though he strongly encourages everyone to obtain those.
He and other emergency officials encourage everyone to place a battery-operated or battery back-up CO detector in hallways near bedrooms and other areas where residents of a household sleep.
As with smoke detectors, their batteries should be replaced when changing clocks each spring and fall, while most detectors should be replaced every five years.
The gas is produced by the burning of fuel in vehicles, small engines, stoves, lanterns, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges and furnaces. Residents with gas, oil or coal burning heating systems, water heaters and other appliances are encouraged to have them inspected annually and ensure they are properly vented.
The CDC also discourages using portable flameless chemical heaters or gas camp stoves indoors or a generator less than 20 feet from a window, door or vent and using a gas range or oven to heat a home or area of one because it produces a buildup of carbon monoxide.
Crago expressed thanks for assistance in submitting the grant application to Bill Lucas, president of the Anderson-Campbell Insurance Agency.
He said money from the grant will be used to purchase masks and face shields for ambulance staff.
Lucas noted the Public Entities Pool of Ohio is a nonprofit risk pool collectively owned by more than 600 local government entities for which it provides coverage.
He said PPE began providing such grants about a dozen years ago.