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Carbon Monoxide Leak in Daycare Sickens Dozens

A hand holding a carbon monoxide alarm

A carbon monoxide leak at a Pennsylvania daycare has prompted local officials to suspend the facility’s childcare license.

According to a CNN news report, at least 32 children and employees at Happy Smiles Learning Center in Allentown were rushed to hospitals on Oct. 11 after a child became unconscious and firefighters discovered “dangerously high levels of carbon monoxide” in the building.

Dangerously High Levels of Carbon Monoxide

While the daycare facility did pass its July 2022 inspection, the city said it decided to suspend the facility’s license because of the “imminent hazard” of the carbon monoxide leak. The cause of the leak is still under investigation. CNN reports that the gas company, UGI, would determine why this occurred. Firefighters initially responded to a call about an unconscious child at the daycare facility on the morning of Oct.11.

Responding firefighters’ carbon monoxide monitors alerted them to high levels of the gas, which is colorless and odorless. When they investigated further, firefighters found “dangerously high levels” of carbon monoxide, which prompted them to evacuate the entire building. At least 27 children and staff were taken to hospitals by ambulance and five others later arrived at the hospital, officials said.

All patients were said to be in stable condition. Some of the 19 patients had been discharged the same afternoon, but officials said some had carbon monoxide levels so high that they required “more aggressive treatment.” Some patients had as much as 10 times higher carbon monoxide levels than normal.

Ongoing Investigation into Carbon Monoxide Leak

The Allentown Morning Call reported that officials investigating this situation have determined that a malfunctioning heating unit and a blocked venting system caused the carbon monoxide leak. Multiple workers from UGI Utilities arrived and shut down the system.

The daycare center did not have carbon monoxide detectors. Under Pennsylvania law, daycare centers are not required to have CO detectors. But a revised Allentown ordinance will require it starting Oct. 27. A state Senate bill that would require CO detectors in childcare centers in Pennsylvania has yet to be passed. The owner of the daycare center told the Allentown Morning Call that she plans to have the detectors installed soon.

Understanding the Dangers of Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that has the potential to be lethal. Carbon monoxide or CO is found in fumes produced when fuel is burned in vehicles, stoves, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges, or furnaces. CO can build up indoors and poison people and animals who breathe it.

Some of the most common symptoms of CO poisoning include headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting chest pain, and confusion. Some of these symptoms are flu-like. If you breathe in a lot of carbon monoxide, it could cause you to lose consciousness or even die. People who are sleeping could die from CO poisoning even before they develop symptoms.

Everyone is at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning. Babies, the elderly, and those with chronic heart disease, anemia, or breathing issues are more likely to get ill from CO. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 400 Americans die from unintentional CO poisoning not linked to fires, more than 20,000 visit hospital emergency rooms, and more than 4,000 are hospitalized.

Liability Issues

In this particular case, it appears that a malfunctioning heater caused the carbon monoxide leak. If this malfunction occurred as the result of a defective product, the manufacturer of the faulty product can be held financially liable for the injuries, damages, and losses caused here. If poor facilities maintenance caused or contributed to this CO leak, the property manager and the owner of the daycare center could also be held liable.

Even though the city or state had no requirement in place that childcare centers install CO detectors at the time, our personal injury lawyers believe that the owner of the center still has a duty of care to the children and the staff members who work at the facility. Carbon monoxide detectors can be purchased for as little as $20 apiece. These are inexpensive devices that have the potential to save lives. The childcare center should have installed the detectors regardless of whether or not they are required by city ordinance or state law.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends having more than one CO detector. The agency recommends that one detector should be placed on each floor in homes plus outside each sleeping area. The primary role of a CO detector is to issue an audible alarm when there are high levels of CO.

Claim for Compensation

In cases where children who are being cared for have been harmed by negligence, families may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the negligent parties seeking compensation for damages including medical expenses, cost of hospitalization, long-term injuries, and pain and suffering. An experienced personal injury lawyer with experience winning premises liability claims will be able to advise victims and their families in such cases regarding their legal rights and options.

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