(Louisville, KY) - A Louisville, Kentucky, father and 3-year-old boy died from carbon monoxide poisoning and a 7-year-old girl was in critical condition. Reports indicate the father was warming up the vehicle inside the garage while trying to get his children off to school the morning of Nov. 28. The three were found in the garage by family members.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas that is emitted by running vehicles and can quickly cause disorientation, sudden illness or even death. Often called the “silent or invisible killer,” the deadly gas often goes undetected, striking victims who are caught off guard or succumb in their sleep. Early signs of CO poisoning include headache, dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath and nausea.
Vehicle-related CO tragedies occur when vehicles are left running inside the garage of a home or if the tailpipe becomes clogged by snow, ice or debris. Additionally, mechanical problems can cause CO to leak into the cabin of a vehicle.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 400 people die in the United States each year due to unintentional, non-fire-related CO poisoning, many of which were vehicle-related.
"As more keyless ignition vehicles are sold, we are seeing an increase in these predictable and preventable injuries and deaths," stated Janette Fennell, president of KidsAndCars.org, the only national nonprofit child safety organization dedicated solely to preventing injuries and deaths of children in and around vehicles. Vehicles with keyless ignitions can easily be left running by accident without the keys inside the vehicle. KidsAndCars.org has documented 28 fatalities and 71 injuries due to CO from keyless-ignition vehicles since 2006 in the United States.
Some manufacturers do provide automatic shutoffs, which turn off the ignition automatically if the key is not present. Others have audible noises that sound when you open the vehicle door if you have not shut off the engine, but the warning may not be heard over the rumble of a closing garage door. But the biggest problem is that many vehicles do not have either audible warning systems or automatic shutoffs.
KidsAndCars.org offers prevention tips to protect families from CO poisoning:
- The No. 1 safety tip is to ensure that you have working carbon monoxide detectors in all areas of the home, especially near sleeping areas. Change batteries twice a year and replace detectors every 6-10 years.
- Never warm up a vehicle in any enclosed space.
- Never leave a vehicle running in the garage, not even with the garage door open.
- Do not put children or adults inside a running vehicle while clearing snow or ice off the vehicle.
- Keyless-ignition vehicles should always be double-checked to ensure the vehicle has been turned off. Even if you take the key fob with you, the vehicle could keep running.
- Always clear the tailpipe of a vehicle in inclement weather conditions. If the tailpipe becomes clogged with ice, snow or other debris, carbon monoxide can leak into the passenger compartment.
What to do if carbon monoxide alarms sound in the home:
- Immediately move all household members outside to fresh air – including pets.
- Call 911.
- Do not reenter the home until authorities have given you permission to do so.