Carbon Monoxide Poisonings Up in Illinois

Updated: 12-07-2006 10:42:53 AM

Chicago Sun Times

Carbon monoxide poisoning is way up this year.

The Illinois Poison Center is on track to get 1,200 calls about CO poisoning in 2006 -- a 37 percent increase over last year.

Center director Dr. Michael Wahl blamed colder weather: When heating systems work harder, they are more likely to release carbon monoxide through various malfunctions.

On Oct. 22, for example, eight people were taken to hospitals when CO leaked from faulty boilers at a South Side church. And on Nov. 12, eight people went to the hospital after a CO leak in a Downers Grove home. Seven girls were having a sleepover "and they were all feeling pretty sick and woozy," a fire department spokeswoman said.

A new state law requires carbon monoxide detectors in houses, condos and apartments by Jan. 1. Exempt are homes not heated by natural gas or other fossil fuels.

CO detectors are sold at Home Depot, Wal-Mart, hardware stores, etc. Prices range from about $20 to more than $60. Different models plug into the wall, are connected to the building's power line or run on batteries.


Like smoke detectors, CO detectors emit loud alarms when set off. Some devices also have digital readouts stating CO concentrations in parts per million. Some devices detect both smoke and carbon monoxide.

State law requires smoke detectors in homes, and Chicago and some suburbs also require CO detectors.

Here's how the new law likely will be enforced, according to the Illinois state fire marshal: If a fire department is called to a home, firefighters will check to see if there are working smoke and CO detectors. If not, the homeowner will be given a warning. Firefighters will come back later and issue a citation if the owner still hasn't complied. Violators are subject to a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,500 fine.


- Install CO detector that meets UL standard.

- Have heating system, including chimneys and vents, inspected and serviced annually.

- Never burn charcoal or use fuel-burning camping equipment inside home, garage, vehicle or tent.

- Never leave car running in an attached garage, even with garage door open.

- Never use ranges, ovens or clothes dryers to heat your home.

- Do not use gas-powered tools and engines indoors.

- If you suspect CO poisoning, open doors and windows, leave house and call fire department and Illinois Poison Center, (800) 222-1222.