Car­bon-monox­ide cases spark warn­ing

Times Colonist - - British Columbia - AMY SMART

VAN­COU­VER — A se­nior para­medic is en­cour­ag­ing home­own­ers to buy car­bon monox­ide de­tec­tors and in­spect their ap­pli­ances fol­low­ing a spike in poi­son­ings in the past week.

Leon Bara­nowski, para­medic prac­tice leader with B.C. Emer­gency Health Ser­vices, said the colour­less and odour­less gas can be emit­ted from fu­els in­clud­ing wood, gaso­line, coal and propane when they don’t burn com­pletely.

“At this time of year, as peo­ple start to turn on their wa­ter heaters, their gas ap­pli­ances, fire places and panel heaters in un­ven­ti­lated spa­ces, car­bon monox­ide has the po­ten­tial to build up in that en­vi­ron­ment. Over time, that can start to over­come pa­tients and af­fect them,” Bara­nowski said.

A fam­ily of five from Bar­riere, near Kam­loops, was air­lifted to a hos­pi­tal in Van­cou­ver in se­ri­ous but sta­ble con­di­tion on Thurs­day. Two fam­ily mem­bers were un­con­scious when they were pulled from their home and the mon­i­tors worn by paramedics in­di­cated high lev­els of the gas when they en­tered the home.

On Wed­nes­day, 13 peo­ple with car­bon monox­ide poi­son­ing were taken to hos­pi­tal from an of­fice build­ing in Van­cou­ver. The prob­lem was traced to a boiler.

There were at least an­other three cases on the Lower Main­land in the past week, said Emer­gency Health Ser­vices com­mu­ni­ca­tions of­fi­cer Shan­non Miller.

Paramedics in the prov­ince re­spond to about 100 cases of car­bon monox­ide poi­son­ing over the course of the year, she said.

Bara­nowski said pa­tients at the lower end of the spec­trum can present cold and flu-like symp­toms, in­clud­ing a dull headache, weak­ness, dizzi­ness, nau­sea and vom­it­ing.

“As the symp­toms progress af­ter pro­longed ex­po­sure, that can lead to in­creased short­ness of breath, con­fu­sion, blurred vi­sion, loss of con­scious­ness and, in the worst case, even death. Car­bon monox­ide starts to re­place oxy­gen in the body, which we all need to func­tion,” he said.

Paramedics treat pa­tients with oxy­gen. In more se­ri­ous cases, pa­tients might en­ter a pres­sur­ized cham­ber for hy­per­baric oxy­gen ther­apy, which in­volves raising the pres­sure in the cham­ber and de­liv­er­ing oxy­gen at a high pres­sure.

The chil­dren and the el­derly are es­pe­cially at risk, he said.

Car­bon monox­ide de­tec­tors are be­tween $50 and $100 to pur­chase, he said, and when the alarm sounds that means it’s time to get out of the build­ing quickly.

If mul­ti­ple peo­ple start to ex­pe­ri­ence symp­toms in the same room or house, that’s also a sig­nal that there could be a car­bon monox­ide leak in the house, he said.

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