COUNTY—A severe carbon monoxide (CO) leak at a Woodloch Springs private residence last Thursday sent 14 occupants to Wayne Memorial Hospital for medical treatment.
While no one died as a result of the incident, a CO leak can prove deadly.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), CO is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas with no audible cues heard from potential leaks.
The CDC states that 430 people in the nation die annually due to accidental CO poisoning with roughly 50,000 being admitted to emergency rooms for treatment.
“CO issues can occur all year long, not just in heating season,” explained Honesdale Fire Department (HFD) Deputy Fire Chief Brian Dulay.
He added, “For instance, in summer after a storm a resident might run a portable gas generator if the power has gone out. If not operated in a well ventilated area, the fumes can cause poisoning.”
Dulay recommends keeping active and updated CO detectors on every floor of a residence to be alerted well in advance of a potential leak.
“If the age is questionable or the detector has chipped in the past the safest action is discard and install new units,”
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), symptoms can begin with a mild headache after two or three hours breathing 200 parts per million (ppm).
They then graduate through nausea, dizziness, unconsciousness and finally death as ppm and time exposure increase.
Unconsciousness can occur within one hour of exposure to 800 ppm of CO.
Symptoms can be exacerbated by many variables which affect bodily functions, especially respiration.
CO poisoning can happen through either an extended period of low ppm exposure or a short period of very high ppm.
The NFPA suggests homeowners ensure all ventilation from dryers, furnaces, stoves and fireplaces remain clear at all times and be checked for debris after a severe storm.
CO detectors should be checked monthly and replaced as needed, cautions the NFPA.
Combustibles such as heaters, generators, gas engines or grills should not be used indoors.
“HFD is equipped with specialized detection equipment for hazardous gases,” Dulay stated.
“If someone feels they have an issue they should call 911, remove themselves from the structure or area and leave windows and doors closed to assist us with detecting the source.”
More information is available from either the CDC or NFPA at www.cdc.gov and www.nfpa.org respectively.