Norton, MA- By Gabriel Leiner, Town Online
After an incident in Norton involving carbon monoxide that sent six people to the hospital, Fire Chief Richard Gomes said he is urging people to buy detectors to recognize the poisonous gas.
“I’ve been talking about (carbon monoxide) and it’s always been a serious problem, but now that we’ve had an incident at our doorstep I think we have a teachable moment,” Gomes said.
Carbon monoxide results from the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels and can come from cars exhaust or from heating systems.
Gomes said symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are dizziness, weakness and nausea. At high levels, carbon monoxide poisoning results in unconsciousness and death
According to Gomes, the maximum allowable concentration for continuous exposure to carbon monoxide in any eight-hour period is 30 carbon monoxide parts present per million of molecules of air, a measure which roughly translates to carbon monoxide being present in.003 percent of every molecule of air.
“A carbon monoxide detector alarm sounds at 30 parts per million and the building on West Main where we had the leak had readings 200 times the limit, or 6,000 parts per million,” said Gomes. “And this could have been a very tragic event because the building where this happened had a nursery school on the second floor with 50 or 70 people.”
After reviewing the Jan. 16 incident in which the six people were hospitalized, Gomes said firefighters determined the building’s heating system leaked carbon monoxide into the vents.
“Carbon monoxide is completely undetectable,” said Gomes. “In a building like that where the carbon monoxide is actually being forced in that’s a huge problem. The victims in that incident had to be taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital and had to be placed in a hyperbaric chamber, which as I understand it is extremely uncomfortable.”
A hyperbaric chamber is a metal chamber which removes carbon monoxide and allows a person to regain the ability to use the oxygen they inhale. The problem with (carbon monoxide) is not that it takes the place of oxygen, but that it doesn’t allow you to use oxygen” said Gomes. “You still take in oxygen if you have carbon monoxide, but the (carbon monoxide) prevents you from respiring.”
Gomes said he recommends placing detectors on any level of a building with a heater, as well as one level above the level with the heater.
“Most of the time equipment that needs to be tuned up is the cause of the problem and if you have a detector it will pick it up,” said Gomes.
According to a November 2005 press release from Governor Romney’s Office, Nicole’s Law requires all single-family homes to have carbon monoxide detectors.The problem with (carbon monoxide) is not that it takes the place of oxygen, but that it doesn’t allow you to use oxygen” said Gomes. “You still take in oxygen if you have carbon monoxide, but the (carbon monoxide) prevents you from respiring.”