West Hazleton, PA – High levels of carbon monoxide temporarily displaced two families Monday morning in West Hazleton.
West Hazleton Fire Chief Shawn Evans said the call came from 222 E. Broad St., where the residents carbon monoxide alarm sounded. Firefighters found the carbon monoxide level at 21 parts per million at the front door, he said.
They checked the other side of the double home at 220 E. Broad St. and found higher levels inside, Evans said. Levels were at 40 ppm on the second floor and 200 ppm in the basement, he said. The room where the furnace was located had the highest levels at more than 400 ppm, he said.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, average levels in homes without gas stoves vary from 0.5 to 5 ppm. Levels near properly adjusted gas stoves are often 5 to 15 ppm and those near poorly adjusted stoves may be 30 ppm or higher.
The EPA website notes that health effects associated with carbon monoxide range from fatigue and chest pain to flu-like symptoms and death.
The source of the gas was a blocked chimney on the 220 side that was back filtering carbon monoxide into both homes, Evans said. Firefighters also found a partially blocked chimney on the 222 side, where the residents showed no symptoms of gas poisoning, he said.
Firefighters strongly urged the family on the 220 side to go to Lehigh Valley Hospital-Hazleton for evaluation and possible treatment, because they were unaware of the high levels inside their home, Evans said. The family two adults and two children did go to the hospital, he said.
Firefighters called code enforcement to look at the houses after the furnaces were shut down and the gas had cleared, Evans said. The property manager for both rental properties was also on the scene and actively looking for a plumber to make repairs to get the families back into their homes, he said.
Evans urges people to service their furnaces every year and have their chimneys inspected at the same time. He also encouraged people to have carbon monoxide detectors in their homes. The 220 side of the home with high levels of gas did not have a detector, he said.