CROOKSTON: Carbon monoxide poisoning sends two to hospital

A furnace system failure poisoned an elderly Crookston couple with carbon monoxide, rendering them unconscious before they were rescued late Tuesday.

A furnace system failure poisoned an elderly Crookston couple with carbon monoxide, rendering them unconscious before they were rescued late Tuesday.

According to Crookston police, Dwane Palmer, 81, and Juneth Palmer, 79, were found unconscious but breathing in an upstairs bedroom in their home at 317 E. Fifth St. A call from their two sons came in to police at 8:48 p.m. Tuesday, after the sons, who met police at the house, had been unable to contact their parents.

After being carried outside by police officers, one of the sons, a state trooper and members of the Crookston Area Ambulance service, the Palmers were taken to Riverview Hospital, then airlifted to Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis.

Both were listed in satisfactory condition by hospital officials late Wednesday; Juneth Palmer was upgraded from the guarded condition she was listed in early Wednesday.

Based on the hospital's guidelines for reporting patient conditions, satisfactory condition means the Palmers are conscious and their vital signs are normal and stable.


Officers said on meeting with the sons outside the house, it was clear what was wrong. "You could smell furnace exhaust like what would normally go up a chimney," said Capt. Brian Halos of the Crookston Fire Department. "But it was very strong. People there initially said their eyes were burning."

The Crookston Fire Department metered the house and found carbon monoxide levels at 300 parts per million. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 35 ppm is the maximum allowable concentration for continuous exposure over eight hours.

"There was evidence on the back stairway coming up from the basement of soot coming up the walls," Halos said. "Something

wasn't venting right."

What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, tasteless, colorless gas that is deadly. About 2,000 people die each year from CO exposure. It is a byproduct of fuel burning.

"Anything that burns fuel, whether it be propane, coal, wood, natural gas or kerosene, is going to emit carbon monoxide," East Grand Forks Fire Chief Randy Gust said.

For healthy adults, carbon monoxide becomes toxic when it reaches a level higher than 50 parts per million.


- At 200 ppm, people experience a slight headache, dizziness, fatigue and nausea after two to three hours.

- At 400 ppm, frontal headaches occur within one to two hours and can become life-threatening after three hours.

- At 800 ppm, dizziness, nausea and convulsions occur within 45 minutes, unconsciousness within two hours, death within three hours.

- At 1,600 ppm, death occurs within one hour.

Carbon monoxide detectors

Halos said the Palmer house had two carbon monoxide detectors.

Minnesota law requires single-family homes and newly constructed homes to have carbon monoxide detectors within 10 feet of any sleeping room. Apartments and multiple-family dwellings will be required to have them by Aug. 1, 2009.

North Dakota law doesn't require carbon monoxide detectors in homes.


"Anything that gives you early warning that can get your family out of the house and away from danger, I'd advise having it," said Grand Forks Battalion Chief Rick Coulter.

Most retail stores in Grand Forks sell home carbon monoxide detectors at $50 and less. Some models combined with smoke alarms sell for $40.

To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in your home:

- Have your furnace and any other heating appliances inspected and cleaned annually.

- Clean heating vents regularly and unclog chimneys.

- Don't use heating equipment that isn't approved for inside use.

- Carbon monoxide can seep into the home from attached garages. When you start your vehicle on cold mornings, back it out of the garage and let it warm up outside. Older automobiles can emit CO levels of 100,000 ppm every minute. In many homes, sleeping areas are often built right over the garage.

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