Seven people were taken to the hospital Wednesday night for carbon monoxide poisoning.  This happened at a condominium complex in Seattle, where the CO was notice the smell of exhaust and alerted authorities.   Two out the seven show significant impairment from the exposure and were being treated with hyperbaric oxygen treatment.  These two individuals are still in critical condition and may have long term severe impairments. In fact, the problems associated with carbon monoxide exposure could actually get worse for all seven individuals for up to the next 40 days.  See our page on Delayed Neurological Sequelae of CO exposure.

Further, if there was sufficient carbon monoxide in this building for these seven individuals to get hospitalized, others living there could also be effected.  It is key to determine the source of the CO and to make sure that all those who could have inhaled it, get their blood tested for carboxyhemoglobin.  It is critical that such tests are done now, as the evidence may go away, but the disability could be quite significant.

While carbon monoxide is odorless, sometimes people are warned of the danger because they can smell exhaust, such as in this case.  When coupled with things that smell, like automobile exhaust, people can be warned. What makes it so dangerous in dwellings is that it may exist, even when there isn’t smoke or exhaust odors.  But certainly, when you smell smoke, there is probably carbon monoxide in the air.

This is not the first and only incident of carbon monoxide poisoning in the past several months.

There is the incident this past July where a hotel in the mountains of North Carolina, specifically Boone North Carolina, where three deaths are blamed on carbon monoxide poisoning, in two separate incidents, months apart. An elderly couple died in one incident but no corrective actions were taken and then months later,  an eleven year old boy died in the same room.

In June of this year there was a carbon monoxide incident in Lake Delton Wisconsin (a popular tourist town aka as the Wisconsin Dells) that sent several people to the hospital.  This time there were carbon monoxide detectors in place.  But it took the employees to get unexplained headaches before they became aware that the carbon monoxide detector was flashing.  Doesn’t seem like a very practicalway to be notified of unsafe levels of carbon monoxide.  Why didn’t an alarm go off once the levels became unsafe.  It seems that this instance of sending people to the hospital could also have been prevented. There were no deaths attributed to this incidence.

The winter of 2013 was brutal in some parts of the country with unusually high amounts of snow accumulations.   In Boston after what was named the “Blizzard of 2013” there were three incidents of carbon monoxide poisoning.  It was reported that a 14 year old boy died from carbon monoxide poisoning while waiting inside the car while his father dug the car out after a blizzard. In a second incident a man died who had the heat running in his car trying to stay warm and didn’t realize that the tail pipe was buried in snow.  And a third incident a three and four year old were in a car trying to stay warm but thankfully they were discovered in time to be treated and they survived.

Just last week at the track in Clarksville Tennesee a couple, while enjoying a weekend spent doing their favorite past time of race car spectating, were sleeping in their motor home and the husband died from carbon monoxide poisoning. The wife was treated and considered to be alright.  Motor homes of all vehicles should be equipped with carbon monoxide detectors.  Deaths, brain damage and other organ damage could be avoided if precautions are taken.

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