Three hospitalized for carbon monoxide poisoning in Breckenridge
December 4, 2008
BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. “Three people staying in a home on Royal Tiger Road in Breckenridge last weekend suffered carbon monoxide poisoning after a faulty furnace released potentially deadly levels of gas into the home.
After experiencing what they thought were flu-like symptoms, the three part-time residents drove to the hospital, where tests confirmed they had high levels of carbon monoxide in their systems.
When medical staff learned that three other people still were in the house, they put out a 911 call, and crews from Red, White and Blue Fire Protection were dispatched to the residence.
“When we got there, the residents had already been warned so they were waiting outside in a car,” said Red, White and Blue Capt. Zach Lynch. “It was really lucky that no one died. It’s a scary situation.”
Last week in Aspen, a family of four from Denver visiting for the Thanksgiving weekend died of carbon monoxide poisoning in a home just east of town.
Fire crews tested the gas level in the Breckenridge home and discovered that even with two large windows open, there was a carbon monoxide reading of 77 parts per million.
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For a healthy adult, carbon monoxide becomes toxic when it reaches 50 parts per million, and extreme exposure of 400 parts per million is enough to be lethal.
“The levels were probably much higher before they got those windows open,” Lynch said.
Fire crews tested the residents for monoxide poisoning with a high-tech device that measures internal levels of the gas through the amount of oxygen measured in a fingertip.
The Masimo Rad 57 equipment indicated the residents left at the home were suffering from the beginning stages of carbon monoxide poisoning. All three were taken immediately to the St. Anthony Summit Medical Center for treatment.
“The device is something we use as a diagnostic tool,” said Red, White and Blue Capt. Kim Scott. “Our department is the only organization in the county that has one. It’s a valuable tool for evaluating something that can’t be seen with the naked eye.”
Red, White and Blue Fire purchased the device, which is no bigger than a water bottle, last year for $4,000. The department usually receives more than five calls a month for reports of carbon monoxide, and the new monitoring device has been used in three prior incidents this year.
“Carbon monoxide really is a silent killer,” Scott added. “Especially during the winter months, heating systems can malfunction without people even realizing right away.”
Fire authorities urge all residents to install carbon monoxide detectors on every floor of their home and in every bedroom ” a minor investment for something that saves lives.
“We can’t stress enough the importance of having both a smoke detector and a carbon monoxide detector,” Scott said. “This was a lucky situation, and the gas could have been detected much earlier if this home had a detector installed.”