13 hospitalized after exposure to carbon monoxide at Vancouver office building

Thirteen people were taken to hospital Wednesday after suffering from carbon monoxide exposure in a Vancouver office building.

B.C. Emergency Health Services said paramedics were called to the 1600-block of West 5th Avenue just before 10 a.m., where a person had collapsed.

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When paramedics arrived, their carbon monoxide detectors went off immediately, the agency said.

As others in the area began to show symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure, five ambulances were called in to transport patients from the building to hospital.

Two people are in critical condition, but the other 11 are in stable condition.

Fortis B.C. spokesperson Scott Neufeld said that the leak had been been traced to a faulty heating unit.

“We dispatched our technician, they inspected the gas appliances in the building, and they determined that it was an issue with the boiler,” said Neufeld.

The appliance has been shut off until it can be repaired by a certified gas contractor.

Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless gas that is produced any time a carbon-based fuel such as gasoline, propane, charcoal or oil burns. When inhaled, it can reduce the body’s ability to carry oxygen in the blood, causing illness and even death.

While the gas can be present in buildings at any time of year, the risk is greater in winter months when heating systems are running. However, the risk of carbon monoxide exposure from well-maintained appliances is low, Neufeld said. “Having your gas appliances regularly inspected and maintained by a licensed contractor can help prevent carbon monoxide exposure.”

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