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Death Of Northwest Family Shows Hazards Of Carbon Monoxide

Judy van der Velden
Carbon monoxide detector

Local officials say the deaths of a Pocatello, Idaho, couple and their teenage sons is one of the worst tragedies in recent memory in the southeast Idaho community.

The family was killed over the weekend by a carbon monoxide leak in their home.

It appears Bill and Ross Parrish and two of their sons started getting sick last Saturday when the ventilation system on their gas-powered hot water heater failed. The furnace then pushed odorless, tasteless, colorless carbon monoxide fumes throughout the house.

It was just this January that Idaho joined its neighbors to the west in requiring certain homes to have a carbon monoxide alarms, similar to a fire alarm. But the rules only apply to new constructions. Likewise, older houses in Oregon and Washington aren't required to have monitors until they undergo major renovation or are sold.

The Washington Health Department's Kelly Stowe says tragedies like the one in Pocatello are a reminder to people who use wood heat, natural gas or propane to install a carbon monoxide monitor near bedrooms.

“They give you some kind of detection notice that, hey, there's carbon monoxide in here, you need to get out of the area,” she says.

Carbon monoxide poisoning can seem like the flu at first -- starting with headaches and nausea.

The coroner of Bannock County, Idaho says Ross Parrish, a stay at home mom, had been feeling ill for some time. He says he found a headache log on the fridge that she started keeping last August.