Eleven Treated After Elevated Carbon Monoxide Levels Sicken People at Church in Evanston

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WGN: Nearly a dozen members of the Mount Pisgah Church in Evanston fell sickened during Sunday service due to a carbon monoxide leak in the building. YouTube Tips ⓘ

Police, firefighters, and paramedics from Evanston responded about 12:50 p.m. Sunday, December 19, 2021 to a report of multiple people ill at the Mt. Pisgah Ministry Church at 1815 Church Street in Evanston. Evanston Fire Department paramedics discovered over ten people with symptoms consistent with elevated carbon monoxide (CO) levels.

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Evanston firefighters discovered a level of 500 ppm of carbon monoxide inside the church. A MABAS Division 3 Box Alarm was activated at 12:56 p.m. to assign extra ambulances with paramedics to the scene for treatment and transportation of patients.

Firefighters, paramedics and/or command officers from Morton Grove, Niles, Northfield, and Winnetka were assigned to the scene. Eleven people were transported to area hospitals, and six people were hospitalized.

It sounds like it was possibly from a heat exchanger and a clogged flue … but we’re going to investigate that further.

— Martin Rafacz, Battalion Chief, Evanston Fire Department

Firefighters shut off heat to the building and opened windows to ventilate the building, which brought down carbon monoxide in the church building.




CO concentration in air is measured in parts per million (ppm). The health effects of CO depend on the CO concentration and length of exposure, as well as each individual’s existing health condition. Even the combination of alcohol consumption with CO exposure can compound the effects of CO poisoning and make symptoms worse.

CO in the blood is measured as a percentage of carboxyhaemoglobin. The biological threshold for carboxyhemoglobin tolerance is 15% COHb, and toxicity is consistently observed at levels in excess of 14 to 15%. Non-smoker usually measure less than 3%. Smokers measure about 2 to 4%, while heavy smokers consuming 2 packs per day measure 8 to 9%.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), people will not experience any symptoms from prolonged exposure to CO levels of approximately 1 to 70 ppm, although some heart patients might experience an increase in chest pain.




As CO levels increase and remain above 70 ppm, symptoms become more noticeable and can include headache, fatigue and nausea. At sustained CO concentrations above 150 to 200 ppm, disorientation, unconsciousness, and death are possible.

According to the Seattle Fire Department reference to Kidde, the manufacturer of CO alarm devices, CO levels of 400 ppm are life threatening after 3 hours. Levels of 800 ppm can cause death within 3 hours. Levels of 1600 ppm can cause death within 1 hour, and 6400 ppm can cause death within 10-15 minutes.

Carbon Monoxide Alarm devices are designed to activate before life-threatening levels occur.

Carbon Monoxide Levels That Activate CO Alarms

A Carbon Monoxide level of 40 PPM will activate the CO Alarm in 10 hours.

A Carbon Monoxide level of 50 PPM will activate the CO Alarm in 8 hours.

A Carbon Monoxide level of 70 PPM will activate the CO Alarm in 1 to 4 hours.

A Carbon Monoxide level of 150 PPM will activate the CO Alarm in 10 to 50 minutes.

A Carbon Monoxide level of 400 PPM will activate the CO Alarm in 4 to 15 minutes.

— Kidde

Symptoms of CO poisoning

Since CO is odorless, colorless, and otherwise undetectable to the human senses, people may not know that they are being exposed. The initial symptoms of low to moderate CO poisoning are similar to the flu (but without the fever). They include:

Headache
Fatigue
Shortness of breath
Nausea
Dizziness

High level CO poisoning results in progressively more severe symptoms, including:

Mental confusion
Vomiting
Loss of muscular coordination
Loss of consciousness
Ultimately death

— CPSC | Carbon Monoxide




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Many accidents occur every year involving carbon monoxide — ranging from malfunctioning furnaces to improper use of appliances inside a building. Every year, at least 430 people die in the United States from accidental CO poisoning, and approximately 50,000 people in the United States visit the emergency department each year due to accidental CO poisoning, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Carbon Monoxide Safety Tips from the Seattle Fire Department

1. Do not burn charcoal or use gasoline generators indoors, including the garage.

2. Never use gas ovens to heat your home, even for a short time.

3. If you use a fireplace or wood stove, make sure that chimneys and flues are in good condition and are not blocked.

4. Never idle a car in a garage, even when the garage door is open.

5. If you use gas or oil appliances, make certain carbon monoxide alarms are installed on every level of your home and outside every sleeping area.

— Seattle Fire Department

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