Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in Alaska Strikes Twice

If you heard about one carbon monoxide poisoning close to home, it is enough to scare you. When you hear of two carbon monoxide poisonings, it is enough to take preventative actions. This is what happened after carbon monoxide poisoning in Alaska struck twice.

On Monday, Feb. 20, one person died and seven were hospitalized in a South Anchorage home, according to ADN. On Monday, March 6, nine people were hospitalized due to carbon monoxide poisoning in Houston, Alaska, according to KTUU. Stores across Anchorage have reported a shortage of carbon monoxide detectors recently probably due to the publicity of these stories, according to ADN.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in Alaska Strikes South Anchorage

The South Anchorage home was a single family residence that was built by the family six years ago. Initially, officials thought it was possible that the exhaust vents may have been clogged by snow and ice, a common problem in Alaska. The Anchorage Police Lieutenant said that there were several carbon monoxide detectors inside the home, but none had been installed. This is an illustration of the importance, the urgency of installing CO detectors in the home in a timely way. It’s not something to put off. The levels in the home were close to 1,000 ppm, which is extremely high and deadly. Detectors will be triggered by much less, about 30 ppm, according to ADN.

carbon monoxide poisoning in Alaska

When the temperatures drop and humidity rises, we run the risk of exhaust vents being blocked by ice. This is a particular consideration for carbon monoxide poisoning in Alaska because ice and snow can block vents frequently.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in Alaska Strikes Houston

The second, more recent carbon monoxide poisoning that hospitalized nine people was due to a generator running in the residence’s basement. The residents said they thought there was enough ventilation. He experienced a bad headache, and left the home for some air. He drove to his friend’s house, where he passed out in the driveway. His friend ended up pulling three people out, calling for help, and opening windows for the three others who were immovable. If the call for help had been delayed even a minute, there may have been fatalities, according to KTUU. The house actually did have one carbon monoxide detector, but it was non-functional.

Attorney Gordon Johnson discussed this South Houston poisoning in his testimony in front of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission on March 8, 2017.

Carbon monoxide detectors can be purchased rather easily and inexpensively at the local hardware store. When people hear of tragedies such as the ones described above, they feel compelled to protect their families by buying a good carbon monoxide detector. It is the responsibility of the store to keep these items in stock, so that every family and business can be safe. The best carbon monoxide detectors to buy are the ones with the digital readouts, which tell the user how much carbon monoxide is in the air, and a peak exposure feature. This can be helpful to first responders who need to determine best line of treatment and severity of poisoning.

It is also helpful to have carbon monoxide detectors near sleeping areas, in the kitchen, near the entryway from the garage, and in the boiler room. It is also important to check the detectors and install new batteries every six months to make sure it is operational. In addition, residents and business owners should have their furnaces and other gas-burning appliances serviced every year. Another tip is to monitor exhaust vents when the temperatures are below freezing to make sure they are clear. If you are experiencing signs and symptoms of CO poisoning, such as headaches, nausea, and vomiting, go to fresh air immediately and seek help. In business settings, employers should educate their employees on how to prevent CO poisoning and how to recognize the signs and symptoms. The law in Alaska requires carbon monoxide detectors in all dwelling units that have gas-burning appliances, attached garages, or adjacent parking spaces.

carbon monoxide poisoning in Alaska

Remember to replace batteries in your CO detector every six months. Doing so could reduce carbon monoxide poisoning in Alaska.

In addition, there were two separate workplaces that experienced carbon monoxide exposures on Dec. 13, 2016, according to an investigation. In both facilities, the dropping temperatures and rising humidity led to the wire mesh on the air intake vents to be covered in ice. This caused the increased carbon monoxide production, also known as a “dirty burn.” Boilers are supposed to have a safety feature that shut down operation in oxygen poor conditions, but this feature failed in both facilities. In one facility, a vent dispersed the gas throughout the facility. In the other, the gas may have permeated through the walls. The first facility noted that there was a carbon monoxide detector, but the alarm did not go off.

These news stories and this investigation are unfortunate reminders that people need to be aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning and know what it takes to prevent it in homes and businesses. Carbon monoxide poisoning in Alaska caused carbon monoxide detectors to fly off the shelves. We can only hope that these devices will be installed and maintained in the best ways.

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