Third carbon monoxide poisoning death in Calgary
The Canadian Press
Published Friday, January 4, 2008 6:17PM EST
CALGARY - With details still scarce surrounding Calgary's third fatal carbon monoxide poisoning in the past month, health officials hastily put together a public information campaign to prevent further deaths.
"It's been on everyone's radar, so we are getting more calls,'' Ian McEwan, spokesman for Calgary's Emergency Medical Services, said Friday.
The latest incident happened Thursday afternoon, when a 61-year-old owner of a Calgary paint shop was found unconscious in the back of his shop. He was rushed to hospital where he died a short time later.
One 18-year-old employee and four workers from neighbouring businesses were taken to hospital with elevated carbon dioxide levels.
Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless gas that can easily be generated in both home and business settings.
The gas bonds with red blood cells in the human body, quickly preventing the blood from taking in oxygen. Effects start out as headaches and flu-like symptoms and quickly escalate to possible coma, convulsions and laboured breathing.
Alberta Occupational Health and Safety are investigating Thursday's accident, but say it could be months before any findings are released. The report is also handed along to the provincial justice department to determine whether any charges should be laid.
Spokesman Barrie Harrison said Friday that regulations within the province require all businesses to provide proper venting, including warning systems if the ventilation is not working.
As a result, Harrison said such workplace tragedies are rare.
"Our carbon monoxide poisonings in the workplace do not happen nearly as frequently as we hear about them happening in a residential home,'' Harrison said from Edmonton.
The last workplace carbon monoxide fatality in Alberta was in 2001.
Last month, an elderly Calgary couple died after a car left running in their attached garage produced toxic carbon monoxide levels.
Eight emergency workers and the couple's son were all sent to hospital showing symptoms from the gas after entering the house.
Steve Dongworth, deputy chief of the Calgary fire department said Friday that the tragedy has led to a change in policy where firemen are required to don breathing equipment in any building where it's unclear what has taken place.
"We're in the process of formalizing that into some kind of procedure in the future -- It was a lesson learned from last month's incident,'' he said.
In homes, leaks can also come from furnaces, fireplaces, gas stoves and barbecues.
Dongworth said the tragedies point to the need for carbon dioxide sensors in homes.
And just like smoke detectors, the carbon dioxide detectors need regular maintenance and replacement every seven years.
"If you do that and put the detector fairly close to your sleeping area in the home -- in the hallway outside your bedroom -- that's probably the best thing you can do to protect yourself and your family from the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.''