Eight years ago, Ammie Turos woke up an arm’s length away from her teen-age son.
He was already dead, and rigor mortis had set in on his lifeless body.
“He was four months shy of 16 years old,” Turos told a crowd near the campus of Ohio State University earlier this month.
A faulty furnace exchange had pumped deadly carbon monoxide into Turos’ Columbus-area home.
“Thirty-two parts per million is considered safe but you should evacuate,” Turos said. “Mine was 882 parts per million. How I survived, I have no clue.”
Turos spoke during a recent press conference organized by the Ohio Safe Home Coalition, with hopes of drawing attention to the dangers of carbon monoxide and the need for detectors in home.
It’s called the silent killer — “You can’t smell it, you can’t see it, you can’t taste it,” said Deputy Chief Jeffrey Leaming from the state fire marshal’s office, recalling the dead elderly couple in Xenia he encountered during an emergency call.
And this is the peak season for carbon monoxide accidents, with residents sealing their homes for winter and using heating appliances — furnaces, water heaters, space heaters, clothes dryers, barbecue grills, wood-burning stoves, fireplaces, generators, even car exhaust fumes from an attached garage.
“I refer to it as ‘the great pretender,’” said Henry Spiller, director of the Central Ohio Poison Center. “... As it begins to build up in the house, some of the early symptoms look like the flu. You get a headache, your body aches, you get nauseous and you may vomit.”
Leaming said there are 400 deaths and 20,000 emergency room visits nationally each year attributed to carbon monoxide. He cited news reports spotlighting five deaths and 10 accidental poisonings in Ohio since September.
Assistant Chief Dave Walton from the Columbus Fire Department described a middle-of-the-night emergency run to a city church, where dozens of people were so overcome that they couldn’t call for help.
“Some had vomited, some were unconscious, the pastor was on the stage unconscious ...” he said. “We transported 18 people from that church that night. It was something too bizarre to even imagine that that insidious gas was able to take over common sense ... We were very fortunate that night that no on perished.”
He added, “It can happen anywhere, anytime.
Turos urged residents to skip a dinner or night out and splurge instead on a carbon monoxide detector with battery backup in case of power outages.
“If I had a chance and the education and the knowledge I have now, my son would still be here,” she said, adding later, “I didn’t know how dangerous carbon monoxide poisoning was. If I had an alarm in my home at the time, my son may be here today.”