Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in Chicago

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Carbon monoxide poisoning is an invisible killer that will disable dozens of times more people than it kills. Carbon monoxide (abbreviated “CO”) is an odorless gas that when inhaled gets into the blood stream. Once it is in the bloodstream it, masks as oxygen making it highly toxic. CO poisoning should never happen as this poison should never be in an enclosed place where people might inhale it. This is especially true in the places carbon monoxide does the most damage, apartments and homes, hotels and schools.

This page is for those who have survived CO poisoning and need to sue the party who caused the poisoning.

Chicago Carbon Monoxide lawyer Gordon Johnson

Carbon monoxide attorney Gordon Johnson is shown here testifying about carbon monoxide poisoning to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission.

Attorney Gordon Johnson is a leading carbon monoxide attorney who has settled carbon monoxide cases for in excess of $60 million since the beginning of 2017. He also currently represents dozens of survivors of carbon monoxide poisoning in schools in the State of Illinois.

Disclaimer: Past recoveries do not predict future results. Each carbon monoxide poisoning case is unique and statistically, more than half of those who survive carbon monoxide poisoning may have a full recovery. Large recoveries only occur when carbon monoxide survivors are left with significant future impairments.

CO is the Result of Incomplete Combustion

A little focus on the chemistry will help you understand the how and the why of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Who should get sued after a CO poisoning event?  You must first understand how that carbon monoxide got inside the breathing space. It help to understand the principles of combustion, which means the burning of natural gas or other fossil fuels. For combustion it is necessary for carbon to oxidize. During combustion, fossil fuels are mixed with oxygen to create the heat and energy which propels our industrialized world. The C atom carbon binds with the O oxygen atom to create CO2 and water vaper, H2O. This is the fundamental circle of life. Plants take back the carbon that combustion puts into the air.  In place of the CO2, the plants keep the carbon and release the oxygen for animals to breath.

When something goes wrong in combustion, the life-giving carbon dioxide molecules are replaced by carbon monoxide  (CO) one of the most lethal molecules in our universe. Carbon monoxide is so toxic because it is takes the place of oxygen in our blood. It does so while being odorless, colorless and deadly. Thus, other than the bodies response to the poison, there may be little or no warning that it is in the air.

Worldwide, carbon monoxide (also called CO) is the number one cause of death from poisoning. In the United States there are likely more than 30 times the number of people survive CO poisoning than die.  That figure is based on a deep statistical analysis that was done by the United States Consumer Products Safety Commission’s study of the impact of portable electric generators. The CPSC examined the electric generator poisonings over a ten year period of time. The CPSC found 751 carbon monoxide deaths versus 8,703 CO injuries seen in emergency departments (ER). In addition, the CPSC found even more people treated outside of the ER departments by EMT’s.  That pushed the total of medically attended CO survivors 25,400. That math shows 34 people surviving to everyone who dies. However, this estimate probably understates how many people likely survive carbon monoxide poisoning.

In an in-depth treatment of CO poisoning, it is the tens of thousands of people who survive carbon monoxide poisoning with lasting permanent residuals that we will focus on. The top of the list of those problems after CO poisoning is brain damage.

Carbon monoxide poisoning kills the bodies cells and organs in two ways. First CO takes something away (one of the oxygen atoms). Second CO is also a toxin. While the lack of oxygen can asphyxiate the cell, more damage happens in many cases because of the toxin, which becomes a slow acting poison which continues to attacks the body’s defenses for weeks.

Carbon monoxide is part of the exhaust any time a carbon fuel is burned (like gasoline, natural gas).  High CO levels occur when carbon fuel  is burned with insufficient oxygen supply for the fuel to burn cleanly. The normal result of burning fuel is the creation of carbon dioxide, CO2. When there is insufficient oxygen, carbon monoxide is the by-product, CO, for a molecule with only one carbon atom.

More severe CO poisoning can result in progressively worsening symptoms of vomiting, confusion, loss of consciousness, coma, and ultimately, death.

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Carbon Monoxide in Buildings

Most warnings about CO poisoning relate to warnings about the risk associated from the exhaust in cars.  As a child in the 1960’s, we were warned about the dangers of letting your car running in an enclosed space, like a garage. Yet, car exhaust is not the only source of carbon monoxide. It can occur anytime an engine is converting carbon fuel into energy or heat. Examples, furnaces burning natural gas for heat. Hot water heaters doing the same. Electrical generators burning gasoline for standby or emergency electrical power. Boat motors.

The key element in almost all CO poisonings is failure to get the exhaust out of an enclosed space. While this can happen by accident with a car exhaust, if it has something to do with the HVAC system such as hot water heaters or furnaces, there is almost always more than one party who has fault or negligence. As no HVAC system should ever allow for the release of carbon monoxide poisoning, the installing contractor and/or the contractor responsible for maintaining the HVAC system has committed a life threatening negligence action whenever someone gets a carbon monoxide exposure in a building. But the building owner will in all likelihood also have responsibility for death and injury as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning.

The first place most fire investigator’s look for blame after an carbon monoxide poisoning event is the integrity of the exhaust system for the heating appliance. But while that may be the immediate source of the poisoning, the ultimate cause may be because the heating appliance had inadequate oxygen to burn, first creating the carbon monoxide in the first place and second, causing damage to the exhaust ventilation system, from what in the business is called negative pressure. What negative pressure means is the exhaust gases back up before being completely vented from the building.

Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Delayed Neurological Problems after Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in Schools Next: Carbon Monoxide Litigation

Gordon Johnson

Attorney Gordon Johnson is one of the nations leading brain injury advocates. He is Past-Chair of the TBILG, a national group of more than 150 brain injury advocates. He has spoken at numerous brain injury seminars and is the author of some of the most read brain injury web pages on the internet.

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