Wheeling police and firefighter/paramedics responded about 12:21 p.m. Tuesday to a report of trouble breathing for a female in her 20’s at a manufacturing plant at 750 Northgate Parkway. Paramedics soon discovered that more workers were becoming ill from high carbon monoxide levels, and at least one person was reported passed out about 1:31 p.m. Firefighters tested the air quality in the warehouse building and discovered carbon monoxide levels of 200 parts per million. The building was immediately evacuated and firefighters called for an extra alarm EMS Box at about 12:56 p.m. Tuesday as additional employees became ill. About thirteen workers were transported to four area hospitals.
On the EMS Box, Wheeling firefighter/paramedics were assisted by firefighter/paramedics from Arlington Heights, Barrington, Buffalo Grove, Des Plaines, Highland Park, Lincolnshire-Riverwoods, Long Grove, Northbrook, and Palatine.
The EMS response was elevated to a second alarm EMS Box about 1:30 p.m.
There is no word if carbon monoxide alarms were on site, or if carbon monoxide alarms detected carbon monoxide and/or activated at the manufacturing plant before people became ill.
The manufacturing plant, Durable Packaging International, makes food service products and retail products including aluminum foil products, bakeware, roasters, bake pans, serving trays, outdoor cookware, serving trays, cake pans, oven liners.
Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning causes acute symptoms such as headache, nausea, weakness, angina (chest pain), dyspnea (difficulty breathing), loss of consciousness, and eventually coma and death.
The current Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) permissible exposure limit (PEL) for carbon monoxide is 50 parts per million (ppm) parts of air (55 milligrams per cubic meter (mg/m(3))) as an 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA) concentration.
Carbon monoxide exposures at 100 ppm or greater can be dangerous to human health, depending on the duration of exposure. Carbon monoxide exposure of 200 ppm is listed as a Short Term Exposure Limit (STEL) by some occupational health and safety sources. STEL assessments are usually done for 15 minutes and expressed in parts per million (ppm). However, NIOSH (a little stricter) lists Carbon monoxide exposure of 200 ppm as a ceiling limit — a level not permitted for even a short period of time. NIOSH also lists a recommended exposure limit (REL) of carbon monoxide at 35 ppm as an 8-hour TWA.
Carbon monoxide at 400 ppm is considered life-threatening after three hours of exposure. Levels of 1500 ppm are considered immediately dangerous to health, with death possible within one hour of exposure.
Most people recover completely after carbon monoxide poisoning. However, in severe cases, symptoms can persist for many weeks or even months with permanent brain damage or damage to the heart muscle.
Carbon monoxide (CO) detectors will activate in a few minutes at 400 ppm. At lower concentrations, alarms might not activate for ten, twenty or thirty minutes. Some detectors activate when 40-70 ppm or more are detected. Some alarms are set to activate after 30 minutes at 100 ppm, and after 10 minutes at 200 ppm.
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