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Family of five escapes carbon monoxide poisoning

Five family members, including four young children, were treated for carbon monoxide poisoning after being found in a home with high CO levels on Friday morning.

The Cloquet Area Fire District reported that crews responded to the home in the 600 block of Chestnut Street on a report of multiple people feeling ill. The five people in the home were evacuated and transported to a hospital for observation; two other family members who had already left the home also sought treatment.

Fire crews remained at the scene to ventilate the house so repair work could be done on the heating system. There were no carbon monoxide detectors in the home, authorities said, but they were working with the family to get them installed.

About 230 people die each year from CO poisoning related to fuel-burning household appliances.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas that can be fatal when inhaled. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath and nausea, which are sometimes dismissed as a “touch of the flu.” Don’t be fooled — get to fresh air. If you feel better once you leave the house, do not go back inside, call the fire department.

In many cases of CO poisoning victims are aware they are not well but they become so disoriented they are unable to save themselves by either exiting the building or calling for assistance. Young children and household pets may be the first affected.

According to the Kidde company, which manufactures CO detectors, CO can be produced by any fuel-burning appliance that is malfunctioning, improperly installed or not ventilated correctly, such as automobiles, furnaces, gas ranges/stoves, gas clothes dryers, water heaters, portable fuel burning space heaters and generators, fireplaces, wood-burning stoves and certain swimming pool heaters. It can also be produced by burning charcoal or fuel in grills and hibachis in an enclosed area.

Some of the conditions that could produce carbon monoxide , according to Kidde, include: negative pressure resulting from the use of exhaust fans, simultaneous operation of several fuel-burning appliances competing for limited internal air, vent pipe connections vibrating loose from clothes dryers, furnaces or water heaters, obstructions or unconventional vent pipe designs, extended operation of a fuel-burning device, temperature inversions which can trap exhaust gases near the ground or a vehicle idling in an attached garage or near the home.

Carbon monoxide is a cumulative poison, so long-term exposure to low levels can cause symptoms much the same as short-term exposure to high levels.

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