The Rochester carbon monoxide poisoning last Sunday caused eleven people to need medical attention, according to the Democrat & Chronicle. The levels were about 250 ppm in the Rochester, NY church. This is enough to cause people to be sick, and higher levels could have been fatal.

Rochester carbon monoxide poisoning

This is a map of where the Rochester NY carbon monoxide poisoning occurred. Emmanuel Temple Church is a Christian church in Rochester’s Maplewood neighborhood.

One carbon monoxide poisoning this week in Bridgewater, MA had a home reach levels of more than 800 ppm. These levels could cause headache, nausea, and dizziness after 45 minutes, and collapse and unconsciousness after one hour of exposure. Levels this high as in Bridgewater could be fatal within two to three hours.

In this less severe poisoning in Rochester, NY, the levels weren’t quite so high. Levels of 200 ppm could cause dizziness, nausea, fatigue, and headache after two to three hours of exposure. Considering this occurred on Sunday at church, it’s safe to say that people may have been there for an hour or two or more.

Two adults and one child were taken to the hospital “as a precaution,” and the other eight of the eleven that received medical attention were evaluated on site. An investigation into the Rochester carbon monoxide poisoning pointed to the furnace. They blamed it on an “improperly installed furnace.”

The people who fell ill on Sunday were experiencing the oxygen deprivation that is caused by carbon monoxide poisoning. This is not the only problem that comes with a CO poisoning in the body. In addition to lack of oxygen (called anoxia), carbon monoxide also releases a toxin called glutamate. This is a neurotransmitter that when is not taken up can cause brain cell (neuron) death. We wrote about this neurotransmitter in our blog about a high school student’s discovery to help treat brain damage, which can be viewed here.

Carbon monoxide poisoning not only causes immediate problems, but it can also cause problems in the days and weeks to come. When the brain is oxygen deprived and neurons die, this can result in permanent brain damage. The most vulnerable parts of the brain are the parts that are deep in the brain, the last on the oxygen route, such as the hippocampus and the corpus callosum.

Hemoglobin is the protein in red blood cells that carry oxygen to the brain and elsewhere. Since carbon monoxide binds to hemoglobin with about 200 times the affinity of oxygen, we see the effects of anoxia, oxygen deprivation. When doctors give a blood test after a CO poisoning, they are measuring what is called the carboxyhemoglobin level.

DNS, or delayed neurological sequelae, are the symptoms, both neurological and behavioral, that can occur in the two to 40 days following the poisoning. One example of a symptom of DNS is memory loss. The hippocampus is the brain’s memory center, which is most vulnerable when the brain is oxygen deprived. If any of the people in the church Sunday were feeling sick still after the poisoning, it could be important to see a physician to be safe. Sometimes people don’t know that carbon monoxide poisoning can cause long term problems, so it’s important to educate people about the aftereffects of carbon monoxide poisoning.

This particular carbon monoxide poisoning was not as severe as the Bridgewater carbon monoxide poisoning in the couple’s home, but it was still significant enough to send three people to the hospital. If you haven’t already, install carbon monoxide detectors on every level of your home, near sleeping areas, garages, and boiler rooms. Also be sure to check and replace batteries on carbon monoxide detectors twice a year (at daylight savings time or another time you will remember.) With carbon monoxide detectors in place, you will have a better chance of minimizing the health problems that can be caused by carbon monoxide poisoning.

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