Devices installed on Harris Co. Sheriff's Ford Explorers after reports of carbon monoxide exposure

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas - The Harris County Sheriff's Office issued a safety bulletin about concerns over possible risks from carbon monoxide gas in the Ford Explorers in its fleet.

The bulletin comes in the wake of a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigation into complaints reporting engine exhaust odors in Ford Explorer cabins.

One Harris County sheriff's deputy, and several law enforcement officers nation-wide, have reported symptoms of light-headedness and nausea while operating Explorers. No recalls have been issued, but some police agencies have pulled the vehicles from service.

The Austin Police Department removed 37 vehicles from its fleet earlier this month.

The Austin Police Department has had ongoing issues with carbon monoxide exposure affecting their officers since February. In all, 62 officers reported carbon monoxide exposure.

As a result, the Austin Police Department is removing their nearly 400 Ford Explorers off the street.

"The safety of our officers and employees is our number one priority," Austin city spokesman Bryce Bencivengo said.

Ford said it is investigating the complaints, but has found no evidence of a problem.

Harris County sheriff's deputies said there are 56 Explorers in the fleet and that the office has installed carbon monoxide testing devices in several vehicles, and will install more. No harmful levels have been detected by the devices.

The office is also informing deputies of how to reduce the risk of exposure.

According to HCSO, some reports state the carbon monoxide gas exposure risk is increased while the Explorer's ventilation system is set to "recirculate."

Deputies are being asked to take the following precautions:

1. When you are using a vehicle that will be idling for long periods of time (traffic control, street closures, etc.) be sure to allow fresh air to enter the cabin on a regular basis.
2. Maintain awareness of your condition and mental state. If you begin feeling any of the above listed symptoms, introduce fresh air into your unit's cabin.
3. Exit the vehicle on a regular basis to obtain fresh air. This will also help with your blood circulation.
4. If you are becoming lethargic or excessively tired, open the vehicle windows or exit the vehicle and get fresh air.
5. Pay attention to where you park. Most carbon monoxide inhalation deaths that occur in motor vehicles happen when the driver is in an enclosed space (garage), when debris obstructs the exhaust pipe, or when the terrain restricts the free flow of exhaust fumes away from the vehicle.

"The Harris County Sheriff's Office will continue to track the Ford and NHTSA studies and will update personnel with important safety information," the safety bulletin states.

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