Stopping a Silent Killer

Samantha Henry is on a mission to spread awareness of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Five years ago her brother-in-law, Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Johnston, his four-year-old twin sons Robert and Jesse, and his two stepsons, 13-year-old Jimmy Hall and nine-year-old William Hall, all died after being overcome by carbon monoxide poisoning while asleep in their home at NAS Meridian.

Johnston's wife, Tina, was the only survivor. Henry says a faulty water heater caused the poisoning. Investigators say when it comes
to home appliances, this is not uncommon.

"The most efficient appliances can produce carbon monoxide. Every time there's a fire, carbon monoxide is produced. So, if you're oven is working, carbon monoxide is being produced. If your hot water is heating water, carbon monoxide is being produced.," said Dr. Edward Krenzelok of the American Academy of Clinical Toxicology. "Whether it be natural gas, kerosene, fuel oil, logs in the fireplace, those are all things that produce carbon monoxide."

It causes symptoms much like the flu. But carbon monoxide has no odor, color, or taste.

Emergency response officials say, along with buying a special detector, residents should let fresh air flow through their homes on
a regular basis.

"Open windows. Open doors. That allows the carbon monoxide to be ventilated out of the area and keeps you out of danger," said Robby Workman of the Lauderdale Emergency Management Agency.

"Carbon monoxide is something that doesn't discriminate," said Henry from her home in Oklahoma. "It can come in your house and take your family as it did mine."

Henry said her sister, Tina, is doing fine and attempting to live a quiet life in the area.

Meanwhile, NAS officials say no one has lived in the Johnston house
at the base since the tragedy. Extended Web Coverage

Steps to Reduce Carbon Monoxide Exposure

  • Keep gas appliances properly adjusted.

  • Consider purchasing a vented space heater when replacing an unvented one.

  • Use proper fuel in kerosene space heaters.

  • Install and use an exhaust fan vented outdoors over gas stoves.

  • Choose properly sized wood stoves that are certified to meet EPA emission standards, make sure that wood stoves fit tightly.

  • Have a trained professional inspect, clean, and tune-up central heating systems (furnaces, flues, and chimneys).

  • Repair any leaks in the heating systems immediately.

  • Do not idle your car inside a garage.

Source: States Environmental Protection Agency Web Site)