It was reported this week that the Center for Auto Safety has asked Ford Motor Company to recall all of its Explorer SUVs because of concerns about carbon monoxide poisoning. While stating that its vehicles are safe, Ford has offered free inspections and repairs to deal with any potential problems. But the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating thousands of complaints about possible problems with exhaust getting into these vehicles and the Austin, Texas police department has sidelined over four hundred Explorers because of these concerns.
Carbon monoxide poisoning is not a new phenomenon. Sometimes called the silent killer, carbon monoxide is a tasteless, odorless gas that can make you really sick or even kill you. Carbon dioxide is created by the combustion of carbon based fuels. All internal combustion engines and most gas burning appliances emit carbon dioxide. While carbon dioxide occurs naturally in the atmosphere (green plants absorb carbon dioxide and convert it to oxygen through the process of photosynthesis) it has only been through the advent of relatively modern gas and coal burning devices that this lethal substance is created in sufficient quantities that it can hurt or kill.
A long time ago, this was even a bigger problem than it is today. Burning coal creates carbon monoxide and as we all know, coal use has diminished in favor of clean energy. And our understanding of how appliances, cars and other devices can generate carbon dioxide has improved. In fact, today nearly all carbon monoxide poisoning events are avoidable. Nevertheless, this potentially fatal accident still occurs.