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Monday, September 3, 2012

Family Sickened by Carbon Monoxide

MEDIA CONTACT: Mark E. Brady, Chief Spokesperson, 240-508-7930, mebrady@co.pg.md.us

A Glenarden family of five was fortunate to have awakened this morning after being exposed to carbon monoxide (CO).  Shortly after 9:00 am, Monday, September 3, family members started to wake up and each complained of headaches and nausea; classic symptoms associated with CO exposure.  Parents made the call to 911 and told call takers that it was possible that CO was in their house.  Firefighters and Paramedics from the Landover area responded to the 2-story single family home in the 8600 block of Reicher Street and ensured all home occupants were removed from the home and evaluated by paramedics.  Firefighters used meters to test the homes atmosphere and detected CO at 170 parts per million (ppm).  A normal atmosphere would contain anywhere from 0 to 30 ppm of CO.  Any reading over 30 ppm for a prolonged period of time is considered unhealthy.  Exposure to higher levels of CO will make a person sick and could be fatal.

Firefighters shut down the homes natural gas furnace and water heater located in a basement utility closest and ventilated the house.

Paramedics evaluated and treated the patients on the scene and used a pulse oximeter to determine if any CO was present in the patients.  Lower levels of CO were detected and the mother (40's), father (40's) and three children (6, 11, 16) were transported by paramedics to a hospital in Baltimore for possible treatment in a hyperbaric chamber.   Everyone was in good condition.

CO is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas and is referred to as the “The Silent Killer.” Because the properties of CO (colorless, odorless and tasteless) make it nearly impossible to detect without monitoring equipment. A working CO detector is the best method citizens and residents can use to detect the presence of CO. CO alarms are inexpensive and can be purchased at hardware and home improvement stores.

CO results from incomplete oxidation of carbon in combustion and/or the inadequate ventilation of CO after normal combustion. Sources of CO include unvented kerosene and gas space heaters; leaking chimneys and furnaces; back drafting from furnaces, gas water heaters, wood stoves, and fireplaces; gas stoves; generators and other gasoline powered equipment; automobile exhaust from attached garages.

CO Poisoning Prevention Tips

• Install at least one battery-powered CO detector on each level of your home and near sleeping areas, and make sure it is more than 5 feet from fuel-burning appliances to prevent false alarms.
• Ensure that fuel-burning appliances are properly installed and working according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Inspect these appliances for adequate ventilation.
• Do not burn charcoal inside your house, even in the fireplace.
• Do not use gasoline-powered generators inside of your house.
• Keep chimneys clear of animal nests, leaves and residue to ensure proper venting.
• Do not block or seal shut exhaust flues or ducts for appliances, such as water heaters, ranges and clothes dryers.

If It Happens to You

• Never ignore your CO detectors if it sounds.
• Operate test/reset button.
• Determine if anyone in the household is experiencing symptoms of CO poisoning such as a headache, nausea, drowsiness or confusion. Call 911.
• Open doors and windows, or exit your home. Leave the CO alarm where it is.
• If you have an alarm with digital display, emergency responders can determine the highest level of CO present and decide how to treat victims.
• Do not return to your home until the emergency personnel have arrived, the home is aired out and your CO alarm returns to normal operation.

Firefighters from the Kentland Volunteer Fire Department will be returning to the residence and provide the family with a CO alarm and install the life saving device for them.  Citizens and residents may call the Fire/EMS Department SAFETY FIRST PROGRAM at 301-864-SAFE (7233) and a firefighter will install a smoke alarm and/or a CO detector in your house, free of charge.