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Cause of CO poisoning unknown

It just keeps happening and know one seems to care.  People getting poisoned and no one can find the problem.  Wow, if you can't find the problem after someone is poisoned it is pretty doubtful you will ever prevent it from happening. The latest is from Minnesota which has the least CO trained contractors on my list.  The good news is everyone is dying warm!


  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,904
    Do you have

    a link to this?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
  • Mark Eatherton
    Mark Eatherton Member Posts: 5,853
    Easy diagnosis...

    It was a carbon monoxide LEAK dotcha know...

    And by the time the local FD showed up, it had self corrected itself, so its OK to go back in now...

    We had a case here recently, 10 people transported to hospital for O2 treatment, and the FD never did figure out where the CO (250ppm) was coming from.

    Fireplace causing back draft of furnace which was trying to overcome all the warm air being drawn up the flue pipe?

    The home had CO detectors, with dead batteries intact...

    Not only is this deadly gas invisible, it is extremely mysterious as well. Comes and goes as it pleases...

    Instead of spending our tax dollars on electronic speed limit signs that no one ever pays attention to, maybe we should spend those dollars on education of the people who are first responders about how to determine where the CO is coming from...

    Nah, that makes way too much sense. Let's just keep looking at those blinking speed limit signs that were a part of our "economic stimulus" program...

    The soap box is now clear (for now).


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  • Bob Harper
    Bob Harper Member Posts: 1,040
    ghost busters?

    Who you gonna call? I mean when you have a local incident with bodies being taken out of buildings, either to the hospital or meat locker, who do you call?

    Let's say your local fire captain is aware of an NCI certified professional and has his number. Who's going to pay this contractor? The building owner is probably scared out of his mind and figures ANYONE investigating his incident is just there to hang him so he's not going to open his wallet. A licensed Cause and Origin Fire Investigator is almost always hired by the attorney representing the defendant's insurance company, who probably is not even aware of the incident yet. The municipal inspectors are clueless because the incident probably would not have happened if they knew and did their jobs but they have immunity from prosecution. So, you get a news reporters making stupid statements that first lead the response or lack thereof. The scene is not preserved. As soon as he can get a guy in there to *fix* the problem quietly, he will. This becomes a "spoliation of evidence", which will go badly in court against the owner. However, crucial evidence is lost so the truth becomes subjective rather than objective in many cases.

    Let's say you have an incident where some of the flue tile collapsed sufficiently to block the vent connector causing CO to 'leak' into the building. Who's to blame? Well, NFPA 211 calls for annual inspection and maintenance as required as does the IBC. So, any improper installation, defect or deterioration that is passed on from last year is a breech of duty by the building owner. If he failed to provide p.o.s. UL listed CO alarms as required by many codes, then that would be a breech of duty as well. If the owner was properly warned by a service provider of defects but refused to mitigate or correct them, that is a breech of duty and probably gross negligence.

    As for the service providers, each one who failed to inspect the chimney is partially at fault, with the last man in being the most at fault. Same for Makeup air, condition of vent connectors, etc. As for performance and combustion analysis, it gets trickier. If the mfr. states to perform CA in his manual then it must be done at commissioning. However, the duty to perform it annually becomes a little more cloudy. CA has not been universally endorsed or required at the national level by industry stds. of care but it has been proven so in court in some individual cases, which can be used against the defendants. Then you have all the mfrs.: appliance, gas controls, gas regulators, gas utility, etc.

    So, in such cases, a lot of people may share the blame or "Comparative Negligence" depending upon State laws to apportion blame and financial responsibility.

    Until we consolidate our feces, nobody will know who best to call, what local assets are qualified, who pays them and how to initiate their response to the fire ground while the situation is ongoing.

    Yeah, they die warm but quickly assume room temperature. Obviously we need to educate a lot of people more about not just the hazards but the incident response process.
  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    CO and blame:

    Until "others" understand about differential pressures, the problem will never go away.

    My laser soft water sailboat will barely move 1 MPH in 5 MPH of wind. In 7 MPH of wind, my iceboat might go 25 MPH across the ice. Flying in a jet, across the country at 500 MPH at 35,000 Ft, if the jet goes to 37,000 Ft, it might stall and fall out of the sky. Or it could slow down to 480 MPH and fall out of the sky. Why? Pressure differentials.

    I flew to work the other morning. We were delayed because of freezing fog. It was 38 degrees on the ground in fog, but at 1500 ft, we started making ice on the deicing boots. We dropped 500' and found warmer air. The acceleration of the moisture laden air caused a drop in pressure and a drop in temperature. You can make ice from +37 degrees to -40 degrees.

    It's all knowledge. We know what we want to know. Or need to know. Any more than that is up to us.
  • Tim McElwain
    Tim McElwain Member Posts: 4,628

    I think I missed something.
  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    Pressure differential:

    How little pressure differential it takes to do something that is sort of hard to believe. Like the fact that that jet, flying at 35,000' at 500 MPH is about to fall out of the sky because it is going too fast or too slow.

    Another example.

    I was standing in the male position in the men's room at the new airport terminal building with all the latest HVAC toots and whistles. I noticed the water going up and down slightly in the urinal trap. That intrigued me. Why?

    But of course. SAMOBEC. What every plumber is supposed to know and remember from plumbing theory class. The acronym for the 7 ways a trap can loose its seal.

    Syphonage, Aspiration, Momentum, Backflow, Evaporation, Evaporation , and Capillary Action.

    Momentum is at work here. The ventilation system is overcoming the pressure inside the building with the outside pressure. We usually see it as wind blowing over a stack and the trap seal being lost from high winds. The trap is showing the effects of a U-shaped manometer. If you have ever seen the water in a toilet bowl going up and down on a windy day, you are seeing an example of pressure differential between the inside and the outside.  The water splashes over the trap outlet.

    Understand that, and it helps to find CO leaks. If the pressure in the building is greater than the pressure in the vent, of the outside, the CO will always vent to the lower pressure.

    If you understand that the wind blowing across a lake, undisturbed, if you are sailing a boat upwind, you will see the true pressure of the wind. If you are behind and below another boat on the same lake, the wind will bend and slow down because of turbulence and bending away from the true direction. All it took was something to disturb the flow. Restriction. The wind is always speeding up and down. And it oscillates from left to right.

    Its all related.
  • Gordy
    Gordy Member Posts: 9,546

    How common is that very example you shared.....very.

    Little story of when I bought the house I'm living in now.

    The house I'm living in has 4 masonry fireplaces. In the fall I did a meticulous,job of weather stripping all storms, and doors. I inspected flues, and was pretty proud of the job I had done.

    That winter I decided to try out my fireplaces. I got 3 going and was proud of what I owned, and how well they worked. About 1/2 hour later I went to the basement to do,something, and noticed condensation on all the windows?? The dryer was going so I thought the vent pipe came off, nope not that. Then I heard the boiler running as I walked over to the boiler a little light bulb went off in my head . Put my hand by the draft hood sure enough spilling. Opened the basement window by the boiler it was like decompression in an airplane.

    So I got educated real quick. Reliability of spill switches, or their reaction time.

    There now is a warning/ operation list for fireplace usage, and boiler operation for possible future owners. No more than one fire at at a time unless boiler is turned off. Vented appliances, dryer ,bath exhaust, water heater venting, cook top vent, and boiler all have effects on fireplace chimney draft. Use with caution.
  • Mark Eatherton
    Mark Eatherton Member Posts: 5,853
    Great lesson Gordy

    I am glad you dropped out of the "class" before graduation.

    I spoke with a former student who was the last person to work on an appliance before it took someone's life. They said it was the worst feeling they'd ever experienced and made them want to get out of this business. I know my conscientious would not allow me to go on knowing I had inadvertently and mistakenly caused a loss of life or worse....

    I told this person that I admired their stick to itiveness, because if it were me, I'd be on a corner, begging for mercy and money.


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