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Oak Brook: 1 Man Dead, 7 Women Sick from Carbon Monoxide — Possibly from Defective Pool Heater

Thu January 16 2014 1:24 pm
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Oak Brook firefighter/paramedics responded about 10:00 a.m. Thursday to a report of people sick in a house — possibly from carbon monoxide illness. The Oak Brook Fire Department Battalion Chief immediately called for an EMS Box for extra ambulances to respond to a large luxury home at 2900 Oakbrook Hills Road. The address has since been corrected to 2909 Oakbrook Hills Road.

Firefighter/paramedics from Downwers Grove, Elmhurst, Oak Brook Terrace, Lombard and York Center responded with rescue ambulances to provide mutual aid assistance to Oak Brook Fire Department.

Immediately, five victims were transported to Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove. After a secondary search of the large home, a summary report of victims included seven victims with illness and one person dead — apparently from carbon monoxide poisoning.

One man, age 84, was killed, and seven women ranging in age from 23-years-old to 70-years-old were transported to Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital.

Firefighters were searching for the source of the carbon monoxide (CO) at least thirty minutes into the incident. A possible source has been discovered, and initially, firefighters believe the CO source was a defective pool heater or defective ventilation from a pool heater. Elevated carbon monoxide levels as high as 1,000 were discovered in the home.

Exposure to carbon monoxide is the leading cause of death by poisoning in industrialized countries, and is more likely to go undetected in the case of a malfunctioning furnace or in the case of a failed ventilation system.

Once carbon monoxide is in the bloodstream, it forms a strong bond with hemoglobin, and it prevents oxygen from reaching tissues. CO by itself is undetectable by humans, but is often suspected when car exhaust is smelled or when mercaptan is smelled in a natural gas leak. It is especially deadly in cases of failed ventilation and when it is not combined with other odors, or if it builds up while people are sleeping.

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 — causing cardiac complications. At low concentrations, carbon monoxide causes fatigue in healthy people and chest pain in people with heart disease. At higher concentrations, carbon monoxide causes impaired vision and coordination; headaches; dizziness; confusion; nausea. CO can cause flu-like symptoms that clear up after leaving home with the elevated levels of carbon monoxide.

Carbon monoxide (CO) detectors will activate within 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.

Retired 1970s and 1980s tennis star Vitas Gerulaitis died from carbon monoxide poisoning from a gas pool heater on September 17, 1994, at the age of 40. While visiting a friend’s home in Southampton, Long Island, a malfunction in an improperly installed pool heater with improper ventilation caused carbon monoxide gas to seep into the guesthouse where Gerulaitis was sleeping.

Average carbon monoxide levels in homes without gas stoves vary from 0.5 to 5 parts per million (ppm). Carbon monoxide levels near properly adjusted gas stoves are often 5 to 15 ppm and those near poorly adjusted stoves may be 30 ppm or higher.

Westmont and Brookfield firefighter/paramedics and other firefighter/paramedics stood by at Oak Brook’s fire stations to cover the rest of the community during the incident.

WGN Skycam was overhead during the carbon monoxide incident Thursday morning.

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Satellite view of a large luxury home were one person has died and at least six people became sick — apparently from high levels of carbon monoxide in the home.

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