One person died and four others were taken to hospital after a suspected carbon monoxide poisoning Sunday evening.
Emergency crews responded to an Edmonton home north of downtown at around 6:30 p.m., where they found elevated levels of the deadly gas.
A 34-year-old man, who police said was a tenant in the basement, was found dead along with a pet. Four other people were sent to hospital for precautionary reasons.
“I was shocked,” neighbor Don Reykdal said. “Because when I talked to the police officer, it just seemed like everybody was OK, they’re just in the hospital for observation. I didn’t know that someone had passed away.”
Police said the homeowners had a fire inside the house and they suspect the wood fireplace may have been the cause.
“I think you’ve got to be really cautious with that,” Reykdal said. “Call an expert I’d guess, make sure everything is functioning good with a fireplace and so forth.”
“I myself, I keep a couple of windows just cracked just a bit and I make sure my furnace is maintained,” he added. “It’s always in the back of my mind. I’m a pretty safety conscious type of person.”
Police said it does not appear that there was a carbon monoxide detector inside the home.
The EPS said Monday that, while an autopsy still has to be completed, the cause of death “does appear to be CO poisoning.” Police said it is not suspicious in nature. They continue to investigate.
Carbon monoxide poisoning is caused by exposure to a colourless, odourless gas known as carbon monoxide or CO.
It’s known as the “silent killer.” When a person inhales CO, it begins to replace the oxygen that is normally carried in the blood, which leads to carbon monoxide poisoning.
“It’s very important that everyone has a carbon monoxide detector as a second line of defence for identifying carbon monoxide,” Darren Repka, a manager with ATCO Gas, said. “First line of defence would be ensuring that your fuel-burning appliances are safe and maintained and checked annually by a qualified technician… ensuring that any air intake into the home is not blocked and is clear of debris, also ensuring that your vents and chimneys are also free and clear. Not blocked.”
“Chimneys and fireplaces – if you have a wood burning fireplace, ensure that you have combustion fresh air for that fireplace,” Repka added. “You may possibly have to open a window to provide that air circulation.”
He said ATCO will come out to homes and check all natural gas appliances as a free service.
“As we are approaching the heating season, more and more appliances will be operating,” said Repka. “Therefore, they should be cleaned and adjusted and operating properly.”
Poisoning symptoms include headache, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, weakness, chest pain, and confusion. More severe CO poisoning leads to loss of consciousness and death. Because the symptoms are similar to other illnesses, carbon monoxide poisoning can be hard to identify.
“Your smoke alarm and your CO detector should be replaced at least – minimally – every two years,” Russell Croome, deputy chief of health and safety with Edmonton Fire Rescue, said. “If it’s battery operated, we want you to check that twice a year.”
The gas is found in combustion fumes from several sources, including furnaces and fireplaces, vehicle exhaust, wood stoves and other fuel burning appliances, smoke from a fire or blocked fireplaces, nonelectric heaters and malfunctioning gas appliances.
The risk of CO poisoning increases during the winter months, when more heating appliances are used and windows and doors are closed. (KLM, with files from Global News)