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Invisible and silent killer brings cruel surprise to Alaskan family

Family and friends are mourning the loss of Gavin Kleb, who died from a faulty propane-powered fridge that was leaking carbon monoxide, poisoning the 10-year old boy.

Gavin and his family were staying in their Alaskan cabin at time of the incident over a weekend in August.

Gavin was unable to be revived by emergency services while his mother and sister were treated for carbon monoxide poisoning in hospital.

Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless, and tasteless gas, and even at low dosages can be extremely harmful to humans and pets.

Typically the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning is higher during cold winter months when people are using their fuel-burning appliances to heat their homes.

However, this Alaskan tragedy highlights the risk that faulty fuel-burning appliances can leak carbon monoxide at any time of the year.

The symptoms the Kleb family presented were mistaken for a common cold including nausea, headaches, dizziness, fatigue and itchy eyes. If carbon monoxide poisoning is severe, symptoms can include shortness of breath, blurred vision and loss of consciousness.

A reminder that all appliances must be regularly serviced

Richard Partington, category manager for the Family First brand, everyone to regularly have a qualified technician check their fuel-burning (such as oil, wood, gas, kerosene, propane and butane) appliances.

He also recommends installing a carbon monoxide alarm for proper protection.

“A carbon monoxide detector is no substitute for safe use and maintenance of heating and cooking equipment. However, it is your first line of defence to provide early warning of this invisible killer,” he said.

The carbon monoxide risk remains even after winter

With spring weather, the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning remains. Everyone must continue to make sure they are protected.

Carbon monoxide alarms should be regularly tested to ensure they operate correctly just like smoke alarms and vacuumed every 4 to 6 weeks to remove any dust which can reduce the effectiveness of the sensor. If the alarm has past its expiration date it should be replaced.

Another idea is to have a spreadsheet that lists all installed and stand-alone fuel-burning appliances in the home. This is an easy way to keep track what regular maintenance needs to taken.
Any combustion engine, including cars, must never be started in a closed area where there is no adequate ventilation of clean air.

Never barbecue indoors, and have the gas bottle checked to make sure all connections and the gas bottle are in good working order.

If anyone is unsure if their appliances can leak or cause carbon monoxide, they should contact the manufacturer or an appliance technician.