How two deaths may be saving lives

January 18, 2012 2:35:58 PM PST
The deaths of two Jersey City residents, who died tragically from carbon monoxide less than a year ago, may have been responsible for saving the lives last week of people working in a Jersey City warehouse.

One crew member on every Emergency Medical Services unit at Jersey City Medical Center now wears a carbon monoxide monitor as a direct result of this earlier incident.

According to Jim Dwyer, chief of the hospital's EMS squad, the decision was made to wear the device, which is the size of a pager, to improve safety for both his staff, other first responders and the public.

"It is colorless and odorless. You get so sick so fast you can't even help yourself," Dwyer said.

Each detector runs about 170 dollars. Paramedic Rob Luckritz, who clips one on every day now, calls them a no-brainer.

Paramedics had only been wearing the CO detection devices for a few days when they saw them work. Last week they got a call from 911 from a warehouse on Port Jersey Boulevard in Bayonne. Once they walked inside, the detectors started chirping like mad so they had a good idea what they might walking into.

"So they knew two things. One that it was dangerous and two how they might want to start treating the patient," Dwyer said.

The early detection prevented more serious, possibly fatal results, he said.

Carbon monoxide is a deadly, colorless, odorless poisonous gas that is produced by the incomplete burning of various fuels and is undetectable to human senses.

Initial symptoms include headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea and dizziness, with mental confusion, vomiting, loss of muscular coordination and, eventually, loss of consciousness and death found with greater exposure to higher levels of carbon monoxide poisoning (above 150 ppm).

According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, about 170 people in the U.S. die annually from it.

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