Long Island Chabab Camp carbon monoxide poisoning

While 15 people were treating for carbon monoxide poisoning at the Chabab camp on Long Island, most of those didn’t get checked out at the hospital, as should be required.

By Attorney Gordon Johnson

Early reports are that fifteen people were treated for carbon monoxide poisoning at the Chabab of Great Neck, early on June 28, 2022. The Chabab is a summer camp.

15 people treated for carbon monoxide poisoning at Chabab Camp of Great Neck according to ABC 7. https://abc7ny.com/carbon-monoxide-exposure-chabad-of-great-neck-teens-poisoning/12000434/

If the ABC News, Chanel 7 reporting is accurate, once again, emergency responders failed to follow the appropriate standard of care, not transporting all 15 victims to Emergency Rooms.

Rule: If you are exposed to enough carbon monoxide to make you symptomatic, you are exposed to enough carbon monoxide for you to get treated. Presumptively, one does not become symptomatic (headache, dizziness and nausea) unless the carbon monoxide in your blood is high enough to cause permanent brain damage.

While predicting precise COHb levels from acute symptoms is an inexact science, the in most cases, people don’t have significant headache and dizziness until levels approach 20% carbon monoxide in the blood.

COHb is the abbreviation for carboxyhemoglobin, which when given in levels, reflect the percentage of carbon monoxide in the blood of an individual. The best way to measure COHb levels are through a blood test, administered within 6 hours of the end of the exposure. All emergency rooms should have the capacity to administer this test.

The leading medical research literature in the field of carbon monoxide poisoning indicates that up to 40% of individuals who survive a 15% COHb level have permanent neurological and psychiatric changes as a result of such event. See Chambers, et. al. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/02699050802008075

Of the 100 plus individuals that I have represented in carbon monoxide poisoning cases, more than 75% of those have had COHb levels between 10-20%. Anyone who has been exposed to a symptomatic level of CO exposure, should at a minimum go to the hospital. Depending on when the blood test is taken, a level even approaching 10% may indicate that the survivor is at risk for permanent brain damage.

FAQ: Get checked out. Then what?

Anyone who has significantly elevated COHb levels should get referred to Hyperbaric Oxygen therapy, acutely. Meaning today. If it is tomorrow when you read this, then get today. At this point there can be no doubt that Hyperbaric Oxygen therapy, done in a hospital center, will significantly reduce the risk of brain damage. The risk of brain damage from a carbon monoxide exposure that is symptomatic is more significant than the risk of brain damage after a concussion. Too often CO poisoning is looked at as a binary outcome, either you die or you get better. For everyone who dies, 20 people are left with permanent brain damage.

What is worse than having significant neuropsychiatric problems after a carbon monoxide poisoning? Having this change in who you are without anyone explaining what happened to you.

FAQ: What to do if you have been exposed to carbon monoxide poisoning, at levels high enough to set off a carbon monoxide alarm?

  • Get out of the indoor air where you are being exposed.
  • Go to the ER.
  • Get your COHb level (percent of carbon monoxide in the blood) checked. Insist.
  • If the COHb level is above 10%, insist on getting Hyperbaric Oxygen therapy. Insist.
  • As long as you are symptomatic, continue to return for further medical treatment.
  • If you are having brain or mood related symptoms, see a specialist in head injury, even a doctor who see a lot of sports concussions.
  • See a speech pathologist if you are having problems with word finding or speech.

Why do carbon monoxide poisoning cases keep happening when it is not heating season? Despite the news reports, the Chabab carbon monoxide poisoning incident is probably not related to a heating issue. It may be related to a hot water heater or could very possibly related to a pool heater. Pool heaters are the culprit in a significant percentage of hotel cases. If there is a heated pool and it hasn’t been getting regular HVAC maintenance, as opposed to pool cleaning, it is a dangerous situation.

Despite the increased mandates for carbon monoxide detectors, 2022 has been a bad year for mass poisonings.

Recently there was the headline grabbing poisoning at the Sandals resort in the Bahamas. See https://carbonmonoxide.com/2022/05/vacation-deaths-and-carbon-monoxide.html

Early this year, there was a poisoning at a Sleep Inn in Lakeland, Florida, the Cambridge Commons poisoning on the UWM campus in Milwaukee, a poisoning at a school in Spooner, Wisconsin and a poisoning at a Hampton Inn in Marysville, Ohio. See these blogs:

https://carbonmonoxide.com/2022/03/lakeland-sleep-inn-carbon-monoxide.html
https://carbonmonoxide.com/2022/03/cambridge-commons-Carbon monoxide poisoning -poisoning.html
https://carbonmonoxide.com/2022/01/marysville-hampton-inn-carbon-monoxide-poisoning.html

Carbon monoxide poisoning is always preventable. It starts with proper maintenance of HVAC equipment. In a commercial or hotel situation or one like the Long Island Chabab Camp, that maintenance should include a contract for preventive maintenance with a licensed HVAC contractor. Carbon monoxide alarms should be required everywhere indoors. Each time an exception is theorized, a poisoning is likely to occur in just such spot. All apartment complexes should have carbon monoxide detectors in every unit and in hallways and all utility rooms. But keep in mind about carbon monoxide detectors, they are of no value if placed somewhere that no human will hear them. If in the basement of a hotel which only has a front desk clerk at night, they may do no good.

Carbon monoxide detectors must be where the people are, and especially where they sleep. No exceptions.

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