Sunday, September 25, 2016

Three men poisoned by carbon monoxide and are in serious condition after they worked for hours in an unventilated basement with gas-powered tools in Severn, MD


3 Workers Poisoned by Carbon Monoxide in Severn

Three workers are being treated at hospitals after fatal levels of carbon monoxide were found in the Severn house they worked in Thursday.

SEVERN, MD — Three men poisoned by carbon monoxide are in area hospitals in serious condition after they worked for hours in an unventilated basement with gas-powered tools. Anne Arundel County Fire officials say the medical emergency call was made shortly before 4 p.m. Thursday at a residence in the 100 block of Lillian Avenue in Severn.

Firefighters found three men with symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. One of the patients, a 50-year-old man, was taken to the Center for Hyperbaric Medicine at the R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center with serious symptoms. A 42-year-old man and a 31-year-old man were taken to Baltimore Washington Medical Center, also with serious symptoms.

Firefighters searched the residence to ensure that all of the occupants were out of the house. While searching, they found carbon monoxide levels in excess of 1000 parts per million in the basement. Levels above 800 ppm can cause nausea, headache and dizziness after 45 minutes, fire officials said. After one hour of exposure, a victim can become unconscious and death can occur after two to three hours of exposure.

Carbon monoxide is often called the invisible killer. It is an odorless, colorless gas created when fuels (such as gasoline, wood, coal, natural gas, propane, oil, and methane) burn incompletely. In the home, heating and cooking equipment that burn fuel can be sources of carbon monoxide.

The gas is breathed into the body. CO poisoning can be confused with flu symptoms, food poisoning, and other illnesses. Some symptoms include shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness, light headedness or headaches. High levels of CO can be fatal, causing death within minutes. 

The severity of CO poisoning depends on both the gas level and the duration of exposure. For slowly developing residential CO problems, occupants and physicians can mistake mild to moderate CO poisoning symptoms for the flu, which sometimes results in tragic deaths.

For rapidly developing, high-level CO exposures (e.g., associated with the use of generators in residential spaces), victims can quickly become mentally confused, and can lose muscle control without having first experienced milder symptoms; they will likely die if not rescued. 

The National Fire Protection Association offers these carbon monoxide safety tips:
  • CO alarms should be installed in a central location outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home and in other locations where required by applicable laws, codes or standards. For the best protection, interconnect all CO alarms throughout the home. When one sounds, they all sound.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for placement and mounting height.
  • Choose a CO alarm that has the label of a recognized testing laboratory.
  • Call your local fire department’s non-emergency number to find out what number to call if the CO alarm sounds.
  • Test CO alarms at least once a month; replace them according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • If the audible trouble signal sounds, check for low batteries. If the battery is low, replace it. If it still sounds, call the fire department.
  • If the CO alarm sounds, immediately move to a fresh air location outdoors or by an open window or door. Make sure everyone inside the home is accounted for. Call for help from a fresh air location and stay there until emergency personnel arrive.
  • If you need to warm a vehicle, remove it from the garage immediately after starting it. Do not run a vehicle or other fueled engine or motor indoors, even if garage doors are open. Make sure the exhaust pipe of a running vehicle is not covered with snow.
  • During and after a snowstorm, make sure vents for the dryer, furnace, stove, and fireplace are clear of snow build-up.
  • A generator should be used in a well-ventilated location outdoors away from windows, doors, and vent openings.