June 19, 2003
OVERNIGHT CARBON MONOXIDE EXPOSURES ARE REMINDER OF YEAR-ROUND THREAT FROM POISONOUS GAS
Charlotte, NC - The Mecklenburg County Health Department, Charlotte Fire Department and MEDIC are reminding residents of the risks of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning from portable, fuel-burning sources that are not properly ventilated.
Overnight, 16 patients were taken to area hospitals to be treated for CO poisoning. All of these patients have since been treated and released. A portable, gas-powered generator spread the potentially deadly CO gas throughout eight attached apartment units at the Townhomes of Ashbrook on Eastway Drive. The generator was running in a storage closet attached to one of the apartments. That apartment was without electric power.
Running generators, or burning charcoal or other fossil fuels, indoors and warming-up cars in enclosed, attached garages are year-round sources of CO poisoning. During a December ice storm, a number of patients were taken to area hospitals to be treated for CO exposure. Many of these patients were reportedly using gas or charcoal grills indoors to try and keep warm.
By law, residences with fossil fuel burning furnaces or appliances, or attached garages, must contain a carbon monoxide alarm and all residences must contain a smoke alarm. The Townhomes of Ashbrook are all electric units and are not required to have a CO alarm under the county ordinance.
Since the County's carbon monoxide ordinance took effect nearly two years ago, emergency calls for carbon monoxide danger have nearly tripled. It is estimated that the Charlotte Fire Department will respond to more than a thousand calls in 2003 for an activated carbon monoxide alarm.
Carbon monoxide alarms are available at most hardware, home improvement and discount stores for between $20 and $40. The value of a CO detector with a battery backup is evident based on the possibility of an extended power outage.
Residents of Mecklenburg County who cannot afford to buy a carbon monoxide alarm can apply for a free alarm by calling City-County Customer Service at 704-336-7600. Callers must be prepared to give their full name, home address and home telephone number. Each resident's income will be verified and an alarm installed. The alarms were purchased with a grant from City of Charlotte Neighborhood Development.
For more information on the carbon monoxide ordinance, look for the link to the carbon monoxide information pages on the Mecklenburg County Health Department's Web site at
www.meckhealth.org, or go to