Providence, RI – After responding to two reports of carbon monoxide leaks in houses Wednesday night, the Fire Department encouraged residents to check their gas detectors and heating systems.
Its a very dangerous thing, especially in the winter, Battalion Chief Jeffrey Varone said. When the house is closed up, if the heating system does not function properly …, it can be deadly.
Varone said that a carbon monoxide leak can happen with any heating system fueled by oil or gas. In older units, he said, the risk is higher for malfunction and, ultimately, “incomplete combustion.
Ordinarily, heating units are vented through the chimney of a home. But, if there is a crack or a blockage, the colorless, odorless gas can seep into the home and sicken its occupants.
On Dec. 26, two Milford, Massachusetts, residents died of carbon monoxide poisoning in their home. A Danvers, Illinois, couple suffered the same fate Thursday morning, according to Associated Press reports.
In Providence, its a daily call, Varone said. In 2015, firefighters responded to more than 200 reports of carbon monoxide leaks in the city.
Firefighters responded to incidents on Ives and Chestnut streets on Wednesday. In the Ives Street home, a man was dizzy and vomiting when crews arrived, Varone said. He did not have a functioning carbon monoxide detector.
He was lucky, Varone said. If you fall asleep and are in that environment for a period of time, its not good.
Firefighters found that his home had a carbon monoxide reading of 400 parts per million 16 times more than the legal limit established by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
With that reading, a person can suffer symptoms like headache and nausea after about two hours of exposure. With higher readings, like 800 to 1,600 parts per million, a person can become unconscious within an hour.
Residents inside the Chestnut Street home had a detector and called the fire department immediately. They were not injured, Varone said.
Detectors last for about seven to 10 years, Varone said. After that, they should be replaced.