Every year hundreds of people die from accidental exposure to carbon monoxide poisoning. In fact, carbon monoxide from motor-vehicle exhausts is the main cause of poisoning deaths in the United States.
Eighty-three percent of these types of poisoning deaths were in stationary vehicles, with most deaths occurring in garages. Even though garage doors or windows are open, passive ventilation may not be adequate to reduce risk in semi-closed areas.
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless, tasteless and toxic gas that replaces the oxygen in our blood, causing the body to suffocate from the inside. Most people have no idea they are exposed to a high level of carbon monoxide until it’s too late. Symptoms of mild acute poisoning include headaches, vertigo and flu-like effects. Larger exposures can lead to significant toxicity of the central nervous system, heart and death. More tragic is that many people surviving high exposure to carbon monoxide are left with devastating after-effects such as learning disabilities, memory and skills loss, and coronary and respiratory problems.
Drivers can prevent carbon monoxide poisoning with the following precautions:
-Regularly check the exhaust and emission systems in your vehicle.
-Check the floor pan for holes or leaks that could allow exhaust gases to seep into the passenger compartment.
-Drivers that use an attached garage should be extra careful because exhaust gases accumulate and can quickly fill the garage and house with deadly carbon monoxide if the engine continues running.
-Never leave ignition keys in the car. Children have been known to start vehicles, not knowing the danger involved.
-Upon entering the garage, especially one that closes electronically, do not close the garage door until you exit the vehicle and shut off the engine. Get into the habit of closing the garage door with the external switch.
-Never start the engine until you are sure that the garage door is open.
-Check the door seal between the garage and living quarters to make sure it does not leak.