Cautions Horse Owners about Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Lexington, Ky., (Oct. 15,
2007) – Two children and their grandparents from Tomah, Wis., were
killed by carbon monoxide fumes inside the horse trailer where they were
sleeping the night of Oct. 11. The family runs a well-known Clydesdale
horse-breeding operation called Clay’s Clydesdales. They were in
Madison, Wis., for the World Clydesdale Show.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a
potentially deadly gas produced any time a carbon-based fuel, such as
gasoline, propane, charcoal or oil, burns. Sources include gasoline
engines, generators, cooking ranges and space heaters. Carbon monoxide
is undetectable – it has no color, no odor, no taste; it causes no
respiratory irritation; it mixes evenly with the air.
The two adults and two
children were camping overnight in the bunk area of a combination
camper-horse trailer. Commonly referred to as a “Living Quarter
Trailer,” these trailers typically hold two to four horses and have a
“living quarters” area. Such live-in quarters are common among
exhibitors, but many have built-in heat.
However, the trailer
involved in this tragic accident was not equipped with a heater, so the
Tomah couple was using a propane heater to warm the sleeping quarters. A
roof vent was open in the trailer, but that did not provide sufficient
ventilation because carbon monoxide gas hangs low to the ground and
doesn't rise like heat. The lethal level of carbon monoxide killed the
campers in their sleep.
The horses were in
stables and not the trailer overnight.
Victims of CO poisoning
are usually not aware they are being exposed to the deadly gas and
become impaired in ways that can lead to death. Symptoms of carbon
monoxide poisoning include light-headedness, dizziness, headaches,
nausea, confusion and vomiting. Prolonged exposure to low concentrations
or very short exposure to high concentrations can lead to death.
Horse owners are advised
to take precautions to avoid CO poisoning.
“We do not recommend any
type of heating system to be used in horse trailers, unless the heater
is one that was installed by the manufacturer,” said Mark Cole, managing
member of USRider, a roadside assistance plan designed with horse owners
in mind. “Additionally, factory-installed heating systems should be
serviced annually by a professional and operated strictly under
recommendations of the heater manufacturer.”
While it may be tempting
to use a stove – if the trailer is equipped with one – for temporary
heat, stoves should not be used for that purpose under any
Cole also recommends that
a carbon monoxide detector be installed in any trailer that has gas
appliances, such as a heater, stove, oven or refrigerator. The carbon
monoxide detector should be maintained as recommended by the
manufacturer to ensure that it is performing as designed.
avoid CO poisoning, horse owners should be aware of the risks, ensure
sufficient ventilation, properly install and maintain equipment, and
utilize carbon monoxide detectors, especially in living and sleeping
With an annual fee
comparable to that of other roadside assistance programs, USRider offers
the typical flat-tire repair, battery assistance and lock-out services,
plus benefits designed with horse owners in mind, including towing and
roadside repairs for tow vehicles and trailers with horses, emergency
stabling, veterinary referrals and more.
For more information
about USRider and additional safety tips, visit the USRider website at
www.usrider.org or call 1-800-844-1409.
"On a side note, after
reading this article, I didn't use my propane heater in my horse trailer
dressing room, trying to lower traveling costs with less motels. I
shivered all night but I'm alive. Now I'll get a carbon monoxide
detector and test the heaters I have including the ones that say "
inside safe". MrTruck