Public Health Alert: Uptick in carbon monoxide poisoning linked to improper use of emergency generators amid Public Safety Power Shutoff
November 9, 2019
At least four Tehachapi-area residents have been hospitalized in the last two weeks after suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning incurred after improperly heating their homes during ongoing Public Safety Power Shutoffs.
A pregnant woman was poisoned after heating her home with her oven, and another individual was found passed out in their home after starting up an emergency generator inside their garage.
All patients admitted to Adventist Health Tehachapi Valley survived.
Carbon monoxide poisoning can occur when odorless gases are released anytime fuel is burned, such as in an emergency generator or oven. The emitted carbon monoxide attaches to red blood cells with no way to diffuse through the bloodstream. Symptoms include extreme fatigue, shortness of breath and glassy eyes. It can lead to neurological damage and, if left untreated, is fatal.
“The symptoms can creep up on you. The fatigue creeps up on you and if you’ve developed carbon monoxide poisoning from a generator kept indoors or an open oven and then go to sleep because you’re tired, you may not wake up,” says Jules Vasquez-Lowers, an Adventist Health Tehachapi Valley respiratory therapist.
Community members should take precautions, including installing battery-powered carbon monoxide detectors in their homes, especially if they are running emergency generators, Vasquez-Lowers says. They should also be proactive about learning how to use emergency generators properly ahead of another power shutoff.
“This is a very real public health issue,” says Jeff Lingerfelt, Adventist Health Tehachapi Valley president. “As we brace for more of these unexpected power outages during the winter season, we want our friends and neighbors to know how to properly heat their homes so they’re not at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.”
It can take up to one day of breathing normal air to recover from carbon monoxide poisoning. High oxygen treatment at a hospital, however, can reduce recovery time to as little as five hours in some cases, Vasquez-Lowers said. Those who suspect they or a loved one is experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning are urged to call 9-1-1 immediately or seek emergency medical treatment.
Adventist Health is a faith-based, nonprofit integrated health system serving more than 75 communities in California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington. Our workforce of 32,900 includes more than 23,600 employees, nearly 5,000 medical staff physicians and 4,350 volunteers. Founded on Seventh-day Adventist heritage and values, Adventist Health provides compassionate care in 20 hospitals, more than 260 clinics (hospital-based, rural health and physician clinics), 15 home care agencies, seven hospice agencies and four joint-venture retirement centers. In addition, the Adventist Health Plan serves patients in Kings County. Visit http://www.AdventistHealth.org for more information.