CO poisoning may be from faulty furnace

December 18, 2008 2:52:02 PM PST
An alarm clock set for an early morning wakeup saves a Northwest Side family from a fatal level of carbon monoxide, according to one victim. Seven people were hospitalized after a carbon monoxide leak at a home on the city's Northwest Side.

Ambulances were called to the apartment in the 3600-block of Lawrence early Thursday morning where seven people were found unresponsive. One of the victims said he didn't know why he was feeling disoriented Thursday morning, but knew that once he found his family members unresponsive he needed to call for help.

"My manager told me to work this morning. That's why I set my alarm," said Jimmy Doan, whose alarm went off at 5:30 a.m. "I felt dizzy, I felt a big headache, I thought it was I didn't have enough sleep. I just started to walk it off and walk to washroom and collapsed and fell into the bathtub.".

Doan lives on the third floor of an Albany Park apartment with six family members.

"Usually when I open the door, my mom wakes up every time. But this time, she didn't wake up. So I tried to wake her up and turned on the light and just saw her eyes wide open and didn't respond to me when I called her," said Doan.

Doan told his sister to call 911. She collapsed, her head hitting the wall, as she made the call.

Firefighters and police found the carbon monoxide level in the home to be 500 parts per million, a level that is typically fatal.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that's hard to detect. Deaths in Chicago have declined since a CO detector ordinance went into effect in 1994.

"Even at 35 ppm, if you're in there for a long time, the effects are cumulative, it builds up in your system," said Joe Roccasalva, Chicago Fire Department.

Roccasalva said Doan's family is lucky to be alive. The five adults and two children were treated and released at local hospitals.

Investigator said the source of the leak is an improperly vented furnance with an outdated flue. Further inspection found the batteries in the CO detectors were dead.

Doan said he will make sure the detectors are working from now on. He also said he's grateful his boss asked him to work on his day off, forcing him to set the early alarm.

"If I just slept through the whole thing, then we call could have been dead," said Doan.


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