Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Incident Sickens 15 in Philadelphia

<"">Carbon Monoxide poisoning is likely to blame for an incident in Philadelphia,  PA in which 17 people were sent to the hospital, reported the Associated Press (AP) today.

Those investigating the Carbon Monoxide poisoning incident believe a gasoline-powered generator is responsible, said the AP.  The fan was used to inflate a couple of Moonbounce balloon playhouses, said Fire Department Captain John Cleary, according to the AP.  The incident took place at a child’s birthday party, and  six of the ill were aged three to 16.  According to the AP,  two children were receiving treatment in a hyperbaric chamber.

The AP reported that the accident occurred inside the H & H Community Development Center, but Captain Cleary was unsure if the faulty generator was inside or outside of the Center Hall.  The children were attending a birthday party at the Center Hall and were playing inside the two balloon playhouses, reported the Detroit Free Press/FreeP.  It was fumes from the generator, which was powering the fans inflating the balloon playhouses, that were probably leaking Carbon Monoxide fumes, said FreeP.  The accident occurred at around 8:30 Saturday evening.

Recently the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warned seniors specifically that Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning can look a lot like the flu, reported HealthDay News.  Carbon monoxide poisoning is responsible for 15,000 emergency room visits and 500 deaths each year. The EPA released a CO fact sheet late last month that was primarily directed at the elderly because they tend to be more vulnerable to unintentional Carbon Monoxide poisonings if they also suffer from health issues such as anemia or heart or breathing conditions, said HealthDAy News; however, the young are not immune from the dangerous, often fatal effects of Carbon Monoxide poisoning.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless and colorless gas and the number one cause of poisoning deaths in this country, said HealthDay News, which added that the gas is produced by a number of sources—gasoline engines, stoves, and heating systems—and can become dangerous and deadly when it builds up in improperly vented spaces.

McKnights explains that if ill, but symptoms decrease when away from the home or away from the location where the illness is most pronounced; if more than one person in the household or location is ill at the same time; if pets are also exhibiting symptoms; and if some symptoms of the flu—for instance, aches, low-grade fever, or swollen glands—are not present, Carbon Monoxide poisoning should be seriously considered.

The EPA says that Carbon Monoxide can kill a person in minutes if exposed to high levels and that the gas is produced whenever any fuel such as gas, oil, kerosene, wood, or charcoal is burned.  Although fuel-burning appliances, which are maintained and used properly are generally safe, improperly working or incorrectly used appliances can emit dangerous levels of the deadly gas.  The EPA reports that hundreds of people die accidentally every year from Carbon Monoxide poisoning due to malfunctioning or improperly used fuel-burning appliances.

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