By ALICE WALLACE-Special to The Sun
The burners on Robert B. Whites gas stove were on high, and officials have said that it appeared he was using the stove as a source of heating.
A elderly Gainesville man was found dead in his home Wednesday afternoon after a neighbor asked police to check on him.
Though the cause of death is still unknown, toxic levels of carbon monoxide were present in the home when Gainesville Fire Rescue and the Gainesville Police Department arrived on the scene.
Robert B. White, 90, 738 NE 9th St., was found lying dead on his bed around 1 p.m. Wednesday, and a GPD officer found all four burners on his gas stove in the kitchen on high. Officials from Gainesville Regional Utilities determined that the burners were the source of the high levels of carbon monoxide in the home.
Officials have not determined why the burners were on, but officials with GRU, GFR and GPD have all said that it appeared White, who lived alone, was using the stove as a source of heating. If a gas stove is used and used safely it’s not harmful at all, but it shouldn’t be the source of heating in the house, said Marsha Anderson with GRU.
It could be a few days before the coroner’s office will be able to say whether it was the carbon monoxide that caused White’s death. White had not been seen since late Tuesday night, according to the neighbor who called police to check on White.
Michael Heeder with GFR said that when White’s home was tested for carbon monoxide it registered at 60 parts per million. Heeder said healthy adults usually will not feel any symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning until levels reach at least 75 ppm, but the elderly and children can start feeling effects at around 50 ppm.
Heeder also said that the actual amount of carbon monoxide could have been higher, because the reading was not taken until about five minutes after officials started ventilating the house.
Because carbon monoxide is colorless, tasteless and odorless, Heeder said it is not uncommon for people to be unaware when their house is filling with the poisonous gas. Also, the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are almost identical to symptoms someone might feel with the flu, such as headaches, nausea and sluggishness.
The telltale sign of possible carbon monoxide exposure is if two or more people experience the same medical symptoms at the same time, Heeder said.
With colds or the flu, multiple household members do not get sick at the same time, but with carbon monoxide poisoning, Heeder said that a mother and child could feel the same symptoms within minutes of each other.
Heeder also cautioned that January and February tend to have higher numbers of carbon monoxide poisonings because people aren’t as mindful of winter safety as they may be in November or December.
People are anticipating warmer temperatures so they tend to react to the cold rather than planning ahead for it, Heeder said. And they may not be fully prepared.