Hard lesson learned | AspenTimes.com

Hard lesson learned

The deaths last week of a Denver family of four, apparently from carbon monoxide poisoning, served as a tragic reminder about the threat of toxic-gas asphyxiation.

The American Industrial Hygiene Association estimates that at least 5,000 people in the United States annually receive medical treatment for carbon monoxide poisoning. The Lofgren family, however, never made it to the emergency room; a father, mother, son and daughter were all claimed by the toxic gas that filled the home where they were staying for the Thanksgiving holiday.

In the meantime, local authorities are investigating the case, and questions remain unanswered. Was there a carbon monoxide detector in the house? If so, was it working?

We trust that local officials will get to the bottom of this, and we expect any negligence tied to the deaths of the Lofgrens to result in accountability for those responsible.

In the meantime, we implore everyone to do some homework about their own residence. Because carbon monoxide is produced by anything that burns fuel, your home could be a potential source for CO if you have a fuel-burning appliance. Fitting that bill are room heaters (not radiant or electric), furnaces, charcoal grills, cooking ranges (not electric), water heaters (not electric), automobiles running in closed garages, fireplaces, portable generators and wood-burning stoves, according to the American Industrial Hygiene Associate.

The building codes in Aspen and Pitkin County do not require carbon-monoxide detectors on each level of a property, so it is up to each individual homeowner to buy the detectors and ensure that they’re working on all levels of a given residence. The devices cost between $20 and $60 and can be purchased at most any local hardware store.

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Because of last week’s tragedy, the city and county are taking a harder look at the building code as it pertains to CO detectors. While both the city and county building codes require monitors, they are fairly relaxed in that the monitors, in theory, could be stationed in a garage. The city, in a press released issued yesterday, said it plans to implement more specific and comprehensive CO monitor regulations in 2009.

Our hearts go out to the friends and family of the Lofgrens. This tragedy could have been easily averted with a few easy, simple steps. We can only hope that there will be no other deaths of this nature. The Lofgrens paid the ultimate price to make us realize how vital it is to protect one’s home and family.

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