The Grand Portage Reservation is at the northeastern tip of Minnesota. The Air Quality Program has many ongoing projects in order to maintain healthy indoor and outdoor air. These projects include monitoring for regional haze and particulate matter, indoor air quality, invasive plant removal, public outreach, environmental education, alternative energy, and climate change.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Carbon Monoxide Causes Home Tragedy

The silent killer carbon monoxide has stuck again, this time killing one person and sickening seven at a home in rural northwestern Minnesota. The source is still under investigation but is suspected of being a faulty furnace. Apparently one of the family had been complaining of being tired and nauseous, but the symptoms were dismissed as a reaction to a flu shot.

From the AP story linked above:

Coleen Jennings' mother, Joanne Donald of Tower, told the Star Tribune of Minneapolis that she got a call from her grandson when he arrived home Saturday morning saying he couldn't find his mother and everyone was unconscious.

"Call 911," Donald recalled telling him. "Get out of there and get some fresh air before you get sick, too."

Donald's grandson, Gary Jennings, 20, and three Beltrami County sheriff's deputies went to North Country Regional Hospital in Bemidji after being in the house only briefly. The deputies were treated and released. Gary Jennings was released Saturday night, a nursing supervisor said.

According to the Star Tribune, Donald said authorities told her that the carbon monoxide apparently came from a malfunctioning furnace. Beryl Wernberg, emergency management director for Beltrami County, told The Associated Press on Sunday that the source of the carbon monoxide was still under investigation.

"It's just such a tragedy," Donald, 73, told the Star Tribune. "We are just trying to cope. We will be for a long time."

Her daughter had complained for days about being tired and nauseous, but Donald said, "We just figured it was the flu shots. ... We never once suspected it was carbon monoxide. The problem probably peaked on Friday night."

Donald said she felt lucky her grandson had spent the night at a friend's house.

"What would have happened if nobody came to the house in the morning?" she wondered.

If you have any suspicions about whether your appliances are producing excess carbon monoxide I have the equipment to test them, please stop by my office at 27 Store Road or call me at 475-2415 ext. 35 to arrange a test. Be sure you have a good quality carbon monoxide detector in your home, and check it often for proper operation. If you suspect you have high carbon monoxide levels in your home get fresh air immediately! Get everyone outside and seek medical help. Tragedies like this can be prevented, but only if people are aware of the danger.


Gail said...

Hi Stuart! I found your blog from your comment at Climate Progress and I'm very interested to see that you are deeply involved in air quality issues.

Have you read anything at where I write about tree decline from atmospheric toxins. I get really boggled by the scientific research and so I would appreciate any insights you have.

For instance the link you have on your blog to the forest service air quality monitoring site is so unhelpful to me. I search in vain for some understandable graph that will show over time what the levels of ozone are, for instance. NOAA, EPA, DEP, all have pages but they confuse me more than anything else!

How are the trees in your area? you can write directly to if you want.

Stuart said...

Hi Gail!

Yes, I have seen your blog and your insightful comments at Climate Progress as well - you always seem to have something good to add to the conversation.

I will try to find some relevant air pollution information for you. There has been research at the U of MN about birch die-back and forest succession in the boreal forest - I will try to find some links to that as well.

Thanks for reading!