Family found unconscious from carbon monoxide exposure

Prince George\'s County firefighters arrived Tuesday morning to this house on Bernard Drive to find five family members unconscious from carbon monoxide poisoning. (WTOP/Hank Silverberg)

Hank Silverberg, wtop.com

FORT WASHINGTON, Md. – A family was taken to the hospital Tuesday morning after being overcome by carbon monoxide in their Fort Washington home.

Prince George’s County firefighters went to a home in the 8300 block of Bernard Drive near Allentown Road early Tuesday morning after being contacted by doctors at Children’s Hospital.

Doctors were treating a child from the home who had come into the hospital Monday night for unknown reasons.

They told firefighters the child had been exposed to high levels of carbon monoxide and were unable to contact family members.

When they got to the child’s home on Bernard Drive they found five members of his family, three children and two adults, unconscious.

All were taken to the hospital. Firefirefighters say the levels in the home was 450 parts per million. Anything over five parts per million is considered unhealthy.

The source was a malfunctioning gas furnace.

Carbon monoxide is often called the “silent killer.” It is odorless and tasteless and builds up from inadequate ventilation.

The five family members found in the home are all in critical condition.

Firefighters say it is a stark reminder to have furnaces checked annually, to make sure other heat sources like space heaters or fire places are properly ventilated and install a carbon monoxide detector.

Here are some other suggestions to keep home free of carbon monoxide:

  • Keep gas appliances properly adjusted.
  • Use proper fuel in kerosene space heaters.
  • Install and use an exhaust fan vented to outdoors over gas stoves.
  • Open flues when fireplaces are in use.
  • Have a trained professional inspect, clean, and tune-up central heating system (furnaces, flues, and chimneys) annually.
  • Do not idle the car inside garage and never use a charcoal grill indoors.
  • Install a working carbon monoxide alarm.

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