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By Kelly Werthmann

(CBS4) – Ford is addressing growing safety concerns after hundreds of customers say their Ford Explorers are making them sick, including many police officers.

In Texas alone, at least seven Austin police officers have reported falling ill from carbon monoxide leaking into their Ford Explorer police cruisers. That has prompted the Austin Police Department to pull at least 37 vehicles out of service. Now police officers from states like Texas, California and Louisiana are suing the automaker for carbon monoxide exposure.

Several law enforcement agencies in Colorado use Ford Explorers in their fleet. Many departments tell CBS4’s Kelly Werthmann they’re aware of the carbon monoxide concerns, but have not had any problems with their vehicles.

“At this point, we’re not experiencing the issue,” Doug Schepman, spokesman for the Denver Police Department, said. “We’re certainly going to monitor for it.”

interview3 Law Enforcement Agencies Monitor Fleets For Carbon Monoxide

CBS4’s Kelly Werthmann interviews Denver police spokesman Doug Schepman. (credit: CBS)

The Denver Police Departments has 355 Ford Explorers in their fleet, making up more than a third of the agency’s vehicles. None of their cruisers are experiencing the problem, but the department is taking extra precautions to ensure they stay that way.

“We’ve already ordered some carbon monoxide detection disks that will go in the car to help monitor for this problem,” Schepman said. “We’re also looking at what electronic devices may be feasible for this as well.”

The Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson told CBS4 they were made aware of the carbon monoxide concerns months ago. Their Ford Explorers were all tested for the issue and all came back clear. CBS4 also spoke with agencies in Jefferson County –- including Lakewood police, Arvada police and the JeffCo Sheriff’s office — who say they are aware of the issues, but their vehicles are problem-free.

A Ford representative told CBS News there may be a “design issue” that may allow exhaust, which contains carbon monoxide, to seep in, likely through unsealed seams in the rear of the SUV. That is why officers like Austin Police Sgt. Zachary LaHood are suing the automaker.

“Ford needs to step up to the plate, take responsibility and get these cars of the road,” LaHood told CBS News. “They need to issue a recall.”

Ford has told law enforcement, including Denver police, as well as other Ford customers that one way to avoid the exhaust issue is to not use the recycled air option when running the vehicle’s air conditioning or heat.

Kelly Werthmann joined the CBS4 team in 2012 as the morning reporter, covering national stories like the Aurora Theater Shooting and devastating Colorado wildfires. She now anchors CBS4 This Morning over the weekend and reports during the week. Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @KellyCBS4.

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