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Leak In Natural Gas Furnace Causes Carbon Monoxide Scare

Dennis Larsen can’t say enough good things about the carbon monoxide detector he had installed in his Spokane Valley house.

On April 22, it alerted his wife and four children to potentially dangerous carbon monoxide levels.

Carol Larsen said the alarm at the family’s home in the 12100 block of East Maxwell went off at about 3:20 p.m.

She called the fire department’s business line, and was told to call 911 immediately.

Firefighters found a reading of 10 parts per million of carbon monoxide in the atmosphere and opened windows and doors.

Washington Water Power workers arrived at the house and found readings between 20 and 45 ppm. Levels were highest in the upstairs bedrooms, where children had been napping.

According to federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration guidelines, a building with 35 ppm during an eight-hour should be evacuated.

Industrial hygienist Bill Edstrom said the effects carbon monoxide has on people depend on age and health. Adults may notice mild symptoms, such as headaches, at about 100 ppms within an eight-hour period.

The natural gas supply was turned off and a two-inch hole in the gas furnace’s heat exchanger was found.

Larsen and the children sat in the yard while the house was aired out.

The Larsens later brought three-month-old Emily to the emergency room because she had a fever of 103 degrees, was vomiting and lethargic. Doctors said that she had bronchitis, but the gas might have made her sicker.

Dennis Larsen was out of town when the alarm went off.

“Thank God for the alarm,” he said. “God only knows what I could have come home to.

He’s glad he took advice from his father, a retired builder, to install the detector when they bought the house in August.

Larsen plans to install another alarm closer to the furnace.

Fire inspector Eric Olson said that although some carbon monoxide alarms are too sensitive, “it’s not a bad idea to have them” in homes with natural gas.

Tags: safety