Carbon Monoxide Leak at a Community College in Ottumwa, Iowa

A carbon monoxide leak at the Ottumwa Indian Hills Community College campus in Ottumwa, Iowa led about 20 to 25 people to be sent to the hospital. This morning (Nov. 8th), people began complaining of feeling sick in the Bennett Student Services Building. The symptoms were reflective of the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.

They subsequently evacuated the building and called the Ottumwa Fire Department, who confirmed there was a carbon monoxide leak. The story was covered online in the Ottumwa Post. The article reported that about 20 to 25 people feeling sick were transported to the Ottumwa Regional Health Center.

The conditions of the patients are not known right now. The severity of carbon monoxide poisoning can be determined by the carboxyhemoglobin levels. Severity may determine the line of treatment that is given to the patients. Patients with higher levels have a more serious condition.

Carbon monoxide bonds to hemoglobin with 200 times the affinity of oxygen. People suffer brain damage in the wake of a CO poisoning because of the lack of oxygen to the brain and excess toxins in the brain that are not being cleared efficiently. Doctors will usually see damage deep in the brain in parts such as the hippocampus, the memory center, or the corpus callosum.

(See our blog about the importance of carboxyhemoglobin levels in our Madison, WI case.)

The Ottumwa Post article went on to say that the building is closed for the day and will remain closed until they receive the all clear. The source of the carbon monoxide leak was not immediately clear from the article. The fire department and maintenance will have to do an investigation to determine the source of the carbon monoxide.

In one scientific research study of carbon monoxide, it was found that there is subtle but significant atrophy of the corpus callosum in the brain after CO poisoning. The corpus callosum is the part of the brain that joins the left and right hemispheres of the brain. They also found subtle but significant cognitive impairments after poisoning, which include impaired memory, attention, and executive function.

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