Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

February 12, 2013

Family narrowly escapes carbon monoxide deaths over weekend

Ben Tinsley
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE —  A local family barely escaped death Sunday evening after a leak inside their home exposed them to deadly carbon monoxide gas for an extended period of time, city officials said.

During this Sunday night incident, White said three children and their mother fell victim to the prolonged leak in a residence the 800 block of South Pineda. The incident has prompted authorities to urge residents to buy carbon monoxide detectors for their homes.

"You'll never know when you're being affected by carbon monoxide," explained Jacksonville Fire Chief Paul White. "It attaches itself to your red blood cells and starves you of oxygen. … If this family had just gone to bed they wouldn't have awakened. They would have died for sure."

City Manager Mo Raissi also described the incident as a very close call.

"Something in their house was releasing the gas," Raissi said. "It needs to be fixed before anyone can go back inside."

White said a dangerous level of carbon monoxide would be something in the territory of 60 parts per million. This family was exposed to a measurement somewhere in the area of 500 parts per million,

"This was very powerful gas," White said. "These kids were unresponsive when we first got there and the mother was not all there. We immediately sent all of them to the hospital.”

Authorities aren't sure how the mother — in her impaired state — had the wherewithal to move her children outside about 8:30 p.m. Sunday. But by the time authorities had arrived, she had managed to turn off the gas and contact the owner of this rental property, who was on his was over there.

"This kind of thing happens every winter," the fire chief said. "It happens usually from a faulty heater. The gas is odorless so you just feel weak and dizzy and maybe even like throwing up."

According to the Mayo Clinic webpage, carbon monoxide poisoning is caused by exposure to too much of the odorless, colorless, and tasteless carbon monoxide gas. As the fire chief said, such gas severely hinders the ability to absorb oxygen and can lead to serious tissue damage and ultimately death, the website states.

"Carbon monoxide is produced by appliances and other devices that generate combustion fumes, such as those that burn gas or other petroleum products, wood and other fuels," according to the website. "The danger occurs when too much carbon monoxide accumulates in a contained, poorly ventilated space."

White recommends homeowners employ a carbon monoxide detector (otherwise known as a "CO detector"), to detect the presence of the carbon monoxide gas and therefore prevent poisoning. They can be found at area stores. One notable online manufacturer is http://www.espsafetyinc.com.

"You can buy a carbon monoxide detector at any WalMart," White said. "I would highly recommend it."