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Birds alert family to carbon monoxide

Updated: August 15, 2012 6:08AM



ZION — It used to be a canary in a coal mine warned miners of dangerous gases by dropping over in its cage.

In a modern-day instance, a Zion family was saved by their birds and a relative working the late shift Friday who came home to find other family members ill and their pets squawking and escaping from their cages.

The Zion Fire & Rescue Department received a call of people feeling sick at 3:29 a.m. Friday at 1915 20th St., and arrived to find six people all conscious, but showing signs of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Initial readings showed 345 parts per million (ppm) inside the house when anything over 35 ppm is considered dangerous.

Investigators believe that a malfunctioning tankless hot water heater was the source of the carbon monoxide.

“We tend to associate CO poisoning with winter, when heaters are running and windows are closed. This happened in the summer with the windows open,” said Zion Fire Lt. Mark Klamut. “This is why every single residence should have a working carbon monoxide detector.”

He said the outcome would have been worse if one of the residents didn’t come home from working the late shift and found everyone ill and the birds going crazy. That resident was able to call 9-1-1.

All were transported to Vista Medical Center East, Waukegan. All had elevated CO levels.

It was the second instance in a week of people suffering carbon monoxide poisoning. In Waukegan, a family of five was overcome July 7 after a gas-powered generator was used indoors to run an air conditioner.



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