By ,Ottawa Sun

First posted: | Updated:

Quick thinking staff at the Montfort Hospital alerted firefighters to the presence of carbon monoxide in a Lowertown building after two people arrived with symptoms of poisoning.

Shortly after 5 p.m. Sunday, a fire crew was sent to the 100 block of Cobourg St., at Beausoleil Dr., to investigate, determining a basement boiler used to heat the building was the source of toxic fumes.

Carbon monoxide levels in the boiler room were in excess of 800 ppm, which can cause headaches, nausea, and dizziness after 45 minutes, and collapse and loss of consciousness after an hour of exposure.  Five residents from eight units were forced out, and Enbridge Gas and the owner of the building were called.  Fire crews turned the boiler off and ventilated the building until carbon monoxide levels dropped.

Gas company workers arrived and the owner assumed responsibility for the building.  Firefighters are reminding residents and landlords a working carbon monoxide detector is mandatory in all homes.  Carbon monoxide is “a colourless, odourless gas that reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood,” according to Health Canada.

“Low levels over long periods of time are dangerous, and high levels can cause unconsciousness and even death. To keep your indoor air clean and healthy, make sure that fuel-burning devices are well vented.”  Carbon monoxide is also the leading cause of fatal poisonings in North America.  Death can result after a few minutes of exposure to high concentrations.

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Initial symptoms of low to moderate CO poisoning are similar to the flu (but without the fever): Headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness.  High level CO poisoning results in progressively more severe symptoms, including: Mental confusion, vomiting, loss of muscular coordination, loss of consciousness, ultimately death.  If your alarm goes off and someone is exhibiting any symptoms, call 911, immediately leave and seek medical help.

Source: Ottawa Fire Service