Once again carbon monoxide has claimed the life of an area resident. Richard Golab of Deer Lake, Schuylkill County was overcome by the poisonous gas at his residence.

Another person in the house was also overcome, but escaped with her life. She was taken to Schuylkill Medical Center and treated for carbon monoxide inhalation.

Over the years, we've had numerous deaths in our local communities caused by carbon monoxide gas. Many of these deaths could have been prevented.

Golab had no carbon monoxide detectors in his home. Such devices will warn of dangerous carbon monoxide levels in time for people to escape the deadly effects.

Another preventive measure people can take is to make sure they have their chimneys and heating systems checked every year.

Auxiliary heating systems can be the cause of carbon monoxide gases. Again, it's important to have detectors, not only in your house but also in tents and campers, to make sure you and family members are kept safe.

Carbon monoxide detectors are as vital in a home as smoke detectors. They are not very expensive and they are easy to install.

How frequent are carbon monoxide incidents in the area? Talk to any firefighter, especially in the coal regions, and they'll tell you how often their departments are called to homes where carbon monoxide detectors are activated. It happens more than most people realize.

Carbon monoxide is an organic byproduct of combustion, tasteless, odorless gas that competes with oxygen binding sites on the hemoglobin molecule.

Early symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure include headache and nausea. Sometimes people pass off these symptoms as mere illness. Advanced exposure results in coma, cardiovascular collapse, and death.

It's not only central heating systems which emit carbon monoxide gas. Since the early 1990s, at least 80 deaths and several serious injuries are known to have resulted from portable propane radiant heaters used in tents, campers, ice fishing houses, or other enclosed spaces.

Many lives could be saved and much disability prevented if citizens could learn to recognize and prevent the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Preventive efforts such as checking furnace flues, chimneys, and vents could help to alleviate the hazard. The use of good common sense in not using open flames, ovens and other appliances not intended for heating, could reduce the number of carbon monoxide related incidents.

Carbon monoxide is something that has to be taken seriously. It is a killer.

By Ron Gower

rgower@tnonline.com