Carbon monoxide poisoning at Bethesda apartment building sends 15 to hospital -- Gazette.Net


Carbon monoxide poisoning from a generator at an apartment complex in Bethesda sent 15 people to local and regional hospitals last weekend.

Eight people were listed in serious condition, but none have life-threatening injuries, officials said. Two were flown to hospitals by helicopter and were referred for hyperbaric treatment, said Scott Graham, assistant chief of Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service. The treatment helps red blood cells regain the ability to absorb and carry oxygen.

On Monday, Graham did not have status updates of the victims.

The toxic gas came from a generator that maintenance workers were repairing about 10:30 a.m. at the Middlebrooke Apartments, on Battery Lane. One worker fainted, and a resident who was near the back of the 11-story building was also overcome.

According to Barbara Bryniarski from Bethesda-Chevy Chase Fire and Rescue, firefighters found “exceedingly high” levels of carbon-monoxide feet from the building’s entrance. Fire crews at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase fire station — which was preparing to celebrate its annual open house — ran to the building in gas masks, and began clearing people out of the apartment building.

“We had a lot of the people on the call,” Bryniarski said, when reached by phone.

Firefighters evactuated more than 150 residents from the 97-unit building and measured gas levels on each floor of the building. They found levels of between 200 and 800 parts per million, which could have been lethal if not treated quickly. Normal levels of carbon monoxide are about 35 parts per million.

“We call carbon monoxide the silent killer,” said Graham, noting that the gas is colorless and odorless.

The situation could have been much more grave if there hadn’t been so many responders at the Bethedsa-Chevy Chase firehouse, located nearby.

Residents sat on the building’s front lawn as they waited nearly four hours before they were able to return to their homes. Carbon monoxide detectors are in every unit, residents said, but only some heard alarms go off before the evacuation began.

“There were a lot of blessings today,” Graham said.

Gazette Staff Writer St. John Barned-Smith contributed to this report.