Archive for Thursday, February 16, 2006

Carbon monoxide threatens Burkhardt

February 16, 2006

A former Eudora city councilman was sent to a Kansas City hospital Sunday afternoon with carbon monoxide poisoning after a possible gas leak at his residence.

Eudora and Lawrence-Douglas County Fire and Medical crews arrived in the 900 block of Pine Street around 3:30 p.m. after authorities were called to the home of former Councilman Rex Burkhardt.

Emergency personnel prepare to enter the home of Rex Burkhardt, who
was taken to the University of Kansas Medical Center for treatment
of carbon monoxide poisoning Sunday afternoon. The cause of the
poisoning was a suspected gas leak according to Eudora deputy fire
chief Mike Underwood.

Emergency personnel prepare to enter the home of Rex Burkhardt, who was taken to the University of Kansas Medical Center for treatment of carbon monoxide poisoning Sunday afternoon. The cause of the poisoning was a suspected gas leak according to Eudora deputy fire chief Mike Underwood.

According to Burkhardt's sister, Janet Taylor, he had been ill since Thursday and family members had not been able to get a response from him since Friday morning.

Another sister, Donna Oleson, went to check on him Sunday after numerous phone calls and paging attempts had been made. After knocking on the door and windows and not getting a response, Oleson called her sister and brother-in-law to the home, where they found Burkhardt unconscious.

The paramedics were then called. Burkhardt quickly awoke and was responsive when paramedics transported him to the hospital.

Oleson said Burkhardt's carbon monoxide level was found to be 16.7 parts per million. He was treated in an oxygen chamber at the hospital and released into family care late Sunday night.

Eudora Deputy Fire Chief Mike Underwood said the source of the carbon monoxide in Burkhardt's home was still under investigation, and he couldn't tell whether there was a gas leak or if it came from a different source.

Underwood said this type of problem is common in the winter when people run their furnaces more often, and said that buying and using a carbon monoxide detector could typically prevent similar incidents in residents' homes.

Facts about carbon monoxide

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas. It is produced by the incomplete burning of solid, liquid, and gaseous fuels. Appliances fueled with natural gas, liquified petroleum oil, kerosene, coal or wood may produce CO. Burning charcoal produces CO as well as running cars.

Every year, more than 200 people in the United States die from CO produced by fuel-burning appliances (furnaces, ranges, water heaters, room heaters). Others die from CO produced while burning charcoal inside a home, garage, vehicle or tent. Still others die from CO produced by cars left running in attached garages. Several thousand people go to hospital emergency rooms for treatment for CO poisoning.

The initial symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to the flu, but without a fever. They include headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea and dizziness.

Many people with CO poisoning mistake symptoms for the flu or are misdiagnosed by physicians, which sometimes results in death.

The health effects of carbon monoxide depend on the level of carbon monoxide and length of exposure, as well as each individual's health condition.

The concentration of CO is measured in parts per million. Health effects from exposure to CO levels of approximately 1 to 70 ppm are uncertain, but most people will not experience any symptoms. Some heart patients might experience an increase in chest pain.

As CO levels increase and remain above 70 ppm, symptoms may become more noticeable (headache, fatigue, nausea). As CO levels increase above 150 to 200 ppm, disorientation, unconsciousness, and death are possible.

To prevent CO poisoning:

  • Make sure appliances are installed according to manufacturer's instructions and local building codes. Professionals should install most appliances. Have the heating system (including chimneys and vents) inspected and serviced annually. The inspector should also check chimneys and flues for blockages, corrosion, partial and complete disconnections, and loose connections.
  • Install a CO detector/alarm that meets the requirements of the current UL standard 2034 or the requirements of the IAS 6-96 standard. A carbon monoxide detector/alarm can provide added protection, but is no substitute for proper use and upkeep of appliances that can produce CO. Install a CO detector/alarm in the hallway near every separate sleeping area of the home. Make sure furniture or draperies cannot cover up the detector.
  • Never burn charcoal inside a home, garage, vehicle, or tent.
  • Never use portable fuel-burning camping equipment inside a home, garage, vehicle, or tent.
  • Never leave a car running in an attached garage, even with the garage door open.
  • Never service fuel-burning appliances without proper knowledge, skills, and tools. Always refer to the owner's manual when performing minor adjustments or servicing fuel-burning appliances.
  • Never use gas appliances such as ranges, ovens, or clothes dryers for heating your home.
  • Never operate unvented fuel-burning appliances in any room with closed doors or windows or in any room where people are sleeping.
  • Do not use gasoline-powered tools and engines indoors. If use is unavoidable, ensure that adequate ventilation is available and whenever possible place engine unit to exhaust outdoors.

What to do if experiencing CO symptoms

If experiencing any of the symptoms of CO poisoning, get fresh air immediately. Open windows and doors for more ventilation, turn off any combustion appliances and leave the house. Call the fire department and report the symptoms. A person could lose consciousness and die if nothing is done.

It is also important to contact a doctor immediately for a proper diagnosis. Tell the doctor that CO poisoning is suspected.

Prompt medical attention is important if experiencing any symptoms of CO poisoning when operating fuel-burning appliances. Before turning fuel-burning appliances back on, make sure a qualified serviceperson checks them for malfunction.


  • Carbon monoxide detectors/alarms are designed to alarm before potentially life-threatening levels of CO are reached. The UL standard 2034 (1998 revision) has stricter requirements that the detector/alarm must meet before it can sound. As a result, the possibility of nuisance alarms is decreased.
  • CO alarms should be installed according to the manufacturer's instructions. CPSC recommends that one CO alarm be installed in the hallway outside the bedrooms in each separate sleeping area of the home. CO alarms may be installed into a plug-in receptacle or high on the wall because CO from any source will be well mixed with the air in the house. Make sure furniture or draperies cannot cover up the alarm.
  • Never ignore an alarming CO detector/alarm. If the detector/alarm sounds: Operate the reset button. Call emergency services (fire department or 911). Immediately move to fresh air -- outdoors or by an open door/window.
  • To make sure a detector/alarm is working properly, follow the manufacturer's instructions. Using a test button, some detectors/alarms test whether the circuitry as well as the sensor which senses CO is working, while the test button on other detectors only tests whether the circuitry is working. For those units which test the circuitry only, some manufacturers sell separate test kits to help the consumer test the CO sensor inside the alarm.

Source -- U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Office of Information and Public Affairs, Washington, D.C.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.