Grand Rapids, MI – Six children and four adults have been released from a Grand
Rapids hospital after carbon monoxide levels in their home were
found at a dangerous level Wednesday night.
Manuel Gonzales said he called 911 when he came into the home to find
everyone ill with flu-like symptoms. But it wasn’t the flu. It was carbon
Firefighters said Manuel Gonzales’ family – his wife, children, sister, and
brother-in-law – may have died if they had gone to sleep Wednesday
“Very fortunate, being this time of night, that they just didn’t go to sleep
with those types of levels because you can’t see it, you can’t taste it,
you can’t smell it,” said Grand Rapids Fire Department Battalion Chief Brian
Goss. “So, the ill effects that you experience as a result are the only
indications there might be something there.”
Fire crews responded around 9:15 p.m. to the house in the 800 block of
Clancy NE. Initial readings of carbon monoxide found levels in the
upstairs of the home at 1,100 parts per million.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports the normal level of carbon
monoxide is between 1 and 70 ppm. Above 70 ppm, symptoms
become noticeable, including headache, fatigue and nausea. When levels reach
or exceed between 150 and 200 ppm, disorientation,
unconsciousness and death are possible.
However, Goss said the fire department doesn’t like to see levels above 35
ppm, because poisoning can begin setting in at that level.
The cause was a simple alteration to the home’s furnace. Firefighters say
the problem was in the way the furnace was vented to the outside of
the older home.
The home used to have a chimney but it didn’t work right, so it was torn
down and the furnace was vented through the home’s foundation. This
method will work for homes with newer, high efficiency furnaces. They have a
small blower on them that sends out the furnace exhaust.
But older furnaces do not have that option, so the method can be very
Gonzales said it worked fine all last year, but this is when they first had
Sometimes it takes just the right conditions to cause a life-threatening
The family could have gotten out of the home sooner, if they had one
important safety device – a carbon monoxide detector.
“It’s totally different (from a smoke detector). This goes off at a very low
rate. It will give you a heads-up if there’s a problem in your home,” said
Battalion Chief Kevin Sehlmeyer of the Grand Rapids Fire Department.
Grand Rapids firefighters have answered 81 carbon monoxide alarm calls since
this time last year. A faulty furnace was the culprit in cases
where there were higher than normal readings.
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, carbon
monoxide poisoning is the leading cause of accidental poisoning.
Investigators said this incident should serve as a warning. This time of
year is especially dangerous for carbon monoxide poisoning.