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Local police worried about potential carbon monoxide leaks

The federal investigation cites small cracks in the exhaust manifold could be leaking the gas. (WRSP)

Police departments across the nation are concerned about some of its vehicles leaking a dangerous gas. Fox's Esther Kwon reports on how a local police department is taking steps to prevent what could be a deadly situation.

"I went out immediately and got a carbon monoxide monitor, and mounted it in the Explorer," said Southern View's Police Commissioner Mike Patsche upon hearing the news of a federal investigation. Police Commissioner Patsche said the department just got the Explorer Police Interceptor vehicle less than a year ago.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is investigating Ford Explorer SUVs made from 2011 to 2017 for possible leaks in the exhaust systems that could cause carbon monoxide to seep into the vehicle. The national investigation has expanded to include a total of 1.3 million Ford Explorers. That includes Ford's Police Interceptor vehicles that are sold directly to law enforcement agencies throughout the country. Some of those police vehicles are right here in central Illinois.

"When you breathe [carbon monoxide] in along with oxygen in the air, it attaches to your hemoglobin at a much greater rate than oxygen does," explained Springfield Fire Marshal, Chris Richmond. "So just a small amount of carbon monoxide breathed in displaces the oxygen in your lungs."

Carbon monoxide is known as a "silent killer" with colorless, odorless gas that could be deadly. A risk that's far too dangerous for anyone - especially law enforcement. "We all know they spend an awful lot of time in their vehicles, and if they're taking in low levels of carbon monoxide on a regular basis, that becomes an exposure problem for them," said Richmond.

The federal investigation cites small cracks in the exhaust manifold could be leaking the gas.

Ford issued a statement, saying they have found holes and unsealed spaces in the back of some police vehicles - an issue that happens after it leaves the Ford factory. "When a police or fire department routinely installed customized emergency lighting, radios, and other equipment, they have to drill wiring access holes into the rear of the vehicle," said Hau Thai-Tang, Executive Vice President of Ford's Product Development and Purchasing. "If the holes are not properly sealed, it creates an opening where exhaust could enter the cabin."

The Chatham Police Department has three of these Ford Explorers in its fleet, but haven't experienced any problems so far. "We asked the officers that were driving those vehicles if they had had any issues, if there were any smells that they were picking up on or any exhaust fumes," said Chatham Police Department's Deputy Chief Scott Tarter. "Our officers have indicated that they have not picked up on anything."

Although Southern View's Ford Explorer has not had any issues either, the Police Commissioner says he wants to play it safe. "The carbon monoxide monitor is staying in the vehicle," said Patsche.

The ongoing investigation has officially been upgraded and is now just one step away from the NHTSA being able to demand a full recall.

Ford says if you drive a regular, non-police Ford Explorer, you have no reason to be concerned.

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