The Silent Killer earned its name for a reason.
A colorless, odorless, tasteless gas, carbon monoxide at high levels can kill a person in mere minutes.
Carbon monoxide poisoning is particularly dangerous during winter months. It is a byproduct during the burning of fuel, including gas, oil, kerosene, wood or charcoal.
If appliances are maintained properly, the level of carbon monoxide is not hazardous. When appliances malfunction or are used improperly, dangerous levels may result.
At moderate levels, symptoms of carbon monoxide are severe headaches, dizziness, mental confusion, nausea or feeling faint. Low levels may cause mild headaches and nausea or shortness of breath, mimicking symptoms of flu or food poisoning.
A news story earlier this week related a local family's escape from the clutches of the Silent Killer.
While visiting family in West Virginia, the Chiltons - Shawn, Tracy and daughter Zoe - awoke in the night experiencing flu-like symptoms. They were treated for the flu at a hospital emergency room and returned to the house, where they found other family members had passed out.
Paramedics were summoned, carbon monoxide poisoning was suspected and everyone was evacuated.
A leaking hot water heater had unleashed the Silent Killer, reaching levels that would have killed them within four hours.
Not only do the Chiltons now have a carbon monoxide monitor in their home, Shawn routinely installs them as part of his business.
A public service message warning of the dangers of carbon monoxide recently was issued by Robert Clayton, chairman of the Missouri Public Service Commission.
Clayton recommends both installing monitors and having gas-related equipment checked regularly by a qualified technician.
"Service calls entail costs," he said, "but they do save lives."
Public and personal safety proponents are becoming much more vocal about exposing the Silent Killer.
We encourage everyone to take steps to detect this deadly menace and prevent it from invading your home.