This news release describes past events and should be used for historical purposes only. Please note date of release.

University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

News Bureau • Schofield Hall 201Eau Claire, WI 54702
phone: (715) 836-4741
fax: (715) 836-2900
Clinic to Test RVs for Carbon Monoxide
and Gas Leaks Set for April 28
MAILED: April 13, 2001

       EAU CLAIRE —Each year carbon monoxide exposure and explosions from gas leaks are responsible for hundreds of deaths and thousands of trips to emergency rooms for treatment. Although most of these accidents occur in homes or motor vehicles, there have been several incidences among outdoor enthusiasts who use recreational vehicles.
       In an effort to prevent this tragedy, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire students and the Eau Claire City-County Health Department have teamed up to inspect RVs, including towable and motor home units, for elevated carbon monoxide and propane gas leaks. The annual event, known as the Camper Clinic, is set for Saturday, April 28, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Haas Fine Arts parking lot at UW-Eau Claire.
       The clinic began nearly 30 years ago and is held the Saturday before opening fishing weekend, when RVs typically come out of storage and may not be in good working order.
       "Environmental health as a rule is preventative maintenance," said Michael Jensen, an environmental health specialist with the Eau Claire City-County Health Department and 1979 UW-Eau Claire graduate. "The purpose of the clinic is to find the problem before it turns into a bigger problem."
       UW-Eau Claire environmental and public health students belonging to the Student National Environmental Health Association will work with staff from the Eau Claire City-County Health Department to inspect a variety of RVs, including pick-up campers, trailers, camping buses and vans. They will test a variety of fuel-burning equipment, such as stoves, ovens, refrigerators, hot water heaters, interior and exterior furnace exhaust, and propane tanks.
       "Because of the type of activity associated with motor homes — the wear and tear that occurs from driving on or off road — appliances can jar out of adjustment or gas couplings can loosen, " Jensen said. "There’s always the potential for the development of gas leaks or elevated carbon monoxide levels, so it’s a good idea to have your camper inspected every year."
       Last year the team of students and staff members from the health department inspected 15 campers. They detected five gas leaks in gas lines or connections that needed repair, adjustment or cleaning of the burner valves. None of the campers tested for high carbon monoxide levels inside. However, three campers had elevated carbon monoxide levels in the heat ducts indicating possible defects in the heat exchanger, and four campers had elevated levels of carbon monoxide near the oven burners or pilot lights.
       Approximately 15 students take part in the event each year, said Dr. Robert Nelson, professor of environmental health at UW-Eau Claire. "The clinic is a great experience for our students — it has all the elements of an environmental health job. Not only does the activity give them hands-on experience with sampling equipment, it also gives them a chance to deal directly with the public, answer questions and make recommendations."
       Most of the time the campers check out fine, but if even one potentially deadly problem is detected, we’ve accomplished a lot, said Nelson, who has been involved with the clinic since 1973. "It’s usually the explosions and accidental poisonings that make the headlines, but the good news is that many of these problems are caught before a disaster strikes."
       The clinic is free, but donations to SNEHA are welcome. For more information, contact the Eau Claire City-County Health Department at (715) 839-4718 or Nelson at (715) 836-5590.

UW-Eau Claire Home [Administrative Offices] [News Bureau]

Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Schofield 201
(715) 836-4741

Updated: April 13, 2001