Invisible killer, Carbon monoxide: Annapolis death a tragic reminder never to leave autos running in garages.

July 21, 1999

CARBON monoxide deaths are considered freakish because they don't occur as often as such misfortunes as fatal fires or car crashes. Nonetheless, hundreds of people die each year when the colorless, odorless gas, emitted by autos or faulty heating systems, prevents their blood from carrying oxygen.

A sad reminder of the hazard came Monday when 20-year-old Bryn E. Parry, of Alexandria, Va., died while asleep in the home of a friend in Annapolis' Eastport section. The friend's mother accidentally left her automobile running in the attached garage, beside the room where Ms. Parry slept.

The Colby College student's death followed the deaths of four people last month in Charlotte, N.C., in a similar incident. Maryland Deputy Fire Marshal Allen Gosnell recalled a carbon monoxide accident in Prince George's County years ago that claimed five lives.

Carbon monoxide detectors do exist; they're on the market for roughly $40 apiece. But the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission last March recalled 1 million of the devices, made by their largest manufacturer. Some recalled detectors failed to go off soon enough; others didn't activate at all. The state fire marshal neither supports nor opposes them.

That's why the best protection against carbon monoxide poisoning is to make sure heating systems work properly, that chimneys are clean and to never leave a gas engine running in a garage -- under any circumstance.

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