Apartment Carbon Monoxide Deaths strike Chicago’s South Side

Two are left dead in an apartment carbon monoxide poisoning in the Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood with four others hospitalized.

This Friday, September 10, in Chicago two women died and four others, including 3 children were hospitalized in an apartment carbon monoxide poisoning. The two deceased women were found in their basement apartment in the two story building while those injured were taken from a first floor unit.

See our related blog of with respect to deaths from Hurricane Ida in illegal basement apartments.

Little Village in Chicago carbon monoxide deaths

Apartment Carbon Monoxide deaths strike Chicago’s Little Village Neighborhood. See https://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2021/09/10/2-dead-hospitalized-Chicago-carbon-monoxide-leak/3881631318731/

The mother and daughter discovered deceased were believed to have succumbed to a leak which began the night before. A neighbor reported smelling gas coming from the home. The source of the leak is yet to be determined according to the UPI. https://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2021/09/10/2-dead-hospitalized-Chicago-carbon-monoxide-leak/3881631318731/

According to first responders, CO levels were 20 times higher (200 parts per million) than what we consider a safe limit.[1]  Fire officials said that there did not appear to be working carbon monoxide detectors on every floor of the home.

“We gotta make sure that carbon monoxide detectors are on all levels in here, and they are our first line of defense to protect us from any type of events such as this,” said Acting Dep. District Chief Barry Garr, Chicago Fire Dept.”

The tragedy of this story is that a neighbor had received no response the day before when delivering meals to the basement apartment. It wasn’t until the next day that the neighbor was alerted by the obvious odor of gas that something was wrong. Chicago Fire Department Acting Deputy District Chief Barry Garr noted that the home has a heater in the basement but it was unclear whether that was the source of the carbon monoxide.

A neighbor observed that the family in the unit above had some warning:

“The kids, they were smelling gas since yesterday, because the alarm was ringing, and she thought they needed a battery or something.”

One may ask if the alarm was going off, why didn’t they suspect carbon monoxide poisoning. The answer could very well be that the alarm that was going off was a smoke detector. While smoke detectors don’t alarm over CO ambient air levels, when see accumulates in levels approaching 5,000 ppm, it comes with unburned fuel which can set off the smoke alarm, as the smoke alarm is designed to detect this type of chemical.

Apartment Carbon Monoxide Deaths Hit Basements First

The legal requirements for basement apartments are similar to those in New York City. See today’s blog about illegal apartments resulting in deaths after Hurricane Ida hit New York City. The regulations in New York state also that:

“Basement apartments must also be fitted with smoke detectors and they require carbon monoxide detectors if the heating system burns fossil fuel.” https://www.sapling.com/6719436/legal-requirements-basement-apartments-chicago

Firefighters had observed that carbon monoxide detectors did not exist on every level of the building. Deaths are more likely to cluster where the furnace is, such as in a basement apartment. However, all levels of an multi-story apartment building are at risk because the furnace will recirculate the carbon monoxide throughout all levels. Even when the units have separate furnaces, they may share a common vent stack.

The core business of the Brain Injury Law Group is representing the victims of carbon monoxide poisoning. In almost every case, the landlords and their management people are at fault for this poisoning. Such fault may start with the failure to have working carbon monoxide alarms, but in all likelihood the furnace or fuel burning appliance has been poorly maintained and may be used far beyond its useful life.

Attorney Gordon Johnson Cook County Bar #63395


[1] There is a high probability that the amount of carbon monoxide coming out of this fuel burning appliance was closer to 5,000 ppm than the 200 ppm measured in the ambient air. The human nose typically can’t smell the unburned fuel (why they smelled gas) until the CO amounts reach close to 5,000 ppm. When a person smells gas in a CO poisoning, what they are actually smelling is the unburned fuel that is left over from the incomplete combustion that causes creation of carbon monoxide versus the appropriate CO2.

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