Ice house

After an Austin man recently died inside his ice house on Clear Lake from carbon monoxide poisoning, ice fishermen are reminded of symptoms and how to prevent buildup of the toxic gas. (County News file photo)

The dangers of carbon monoxide when it comes to homes or leaving a car running in a garage are well documented.

But after an Austin man died last week on Waseca’s Clear Lake from carbon monoxide poisoning in his ice house, it seems there’s one more danger to be aware of.

Shortly after noon on Jan. 22, William Blom, 41, of Austin, was found dead in his ice house. Medical examiners ruled he died from carbon monoxide poisoning, which can take just minutes in an ice house, according to the Hennepin County Medical Center.

Earlier in January, two Owatonna men also experienced carbon monoxide poisoning while ice fishing in Faribault. They were found by friends, both barely conscious and covered in vomit.

“Carbon monoxide poisoning is the number one cause of accidental deaths in the United States, responsible for an average of 450 deaths and more than 20,000 emergency room visits each year,” according to Rebecca Raudabaugh from For First Alert.

Carbon monoxide, known as the “silent killer,” is an odorless, colorless, tasteless and non-irritating gas that is the product of incomplete burning of carbon-containing materials such as gasoline, charcoal and wood, according to the Minnesota Poison Control System.

When carbon monoxide builds up in a person’s system, it displaces oxygen which starves the brain.

Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs more often during the heating months. In 2014, the Minnesota Poison Control System received 514 calls regarding carbon monoxide poisoning with the highest number of calls coming in January and February.

What causes carbon monoxide build up is usually when heating devices aren’t properly vented.

“Improperly adjusted or poorly maintained fuel-burning equipment and appliances can cause fuels to burn incompletely and danger levels of carbon monoxide accumulate,” said Tim Boettcher, master service technician for CenterPoint Energy’s Home Service Plus.

The risk increases when the home, or ice house, is tightly sealed and not properly ventilated.

Carbon monoxide exposure can originate from anything that burns fuel, such as gas furnaces, stoves, water heaters, grills, wood-burning fireplaces and vehicles.

A CenterPoint Energy press release says that if carbon monoxide exposure is suspected to leave the area taking everyone and pets with you and then call 911.

Treatment for exposure is fresh air or oxygen. Severe exposure requires medical attention.

Diagnosis of exposure can be difficult because symptoms resemble those of other illnesses and include nausea, headaches, dizziness, weakness, chest pain and vomiting.

Reach reporter Samantha Maranell at 507-837-5446 or follow her on Twitter.com @WCNsamantha.

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