4 people die from carbon monoxide poisoning in Portland area

The Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office confirmed four deaths over the weekend due to carbon monoxide poisoning amid a winter storm that brought widespread power outages to Oregon. 

While authorities didn’t immediately provide any details about the deaths, they did urge people not to use alternative heat sources like camp stoves or barbecues to stay warm.

Sgt. Marcus Mendoza, an agency spokesman, would not confirm the identities of the four people, where they lived or whether they were exposed to the gas at one location.

He did tell the Oregonian/OregonLive that the four deaths were unrelated to a carbon monoxide poisoning incident that sickened six people Monday in Gladstone, southeast of Portland. Four people were taken to a hospital while two others were treated at the scene.

Symptoms of CO poisoning can be variable and nonspecific. But even though the gas is hard to detect through our senses, the CDC wants you to be aware of these warning signs:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Chest pain
  • Altered mental state

In addition, severe cases may result in the following

  • Malaise
  • Shortness of breath
  • Irritability
  • Ataxia
  • Altered mental status,
  • Other neurologic symptoms
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Coma
  • Death

The CDC also laid out steps you can take to protect yourself from high concentrations of CO, like installing a battery-powered CO detector in your home.

It should be placed in a spot where it’s likely to wake you up should it activate.

Other safety recommendations include:

  • Have your heating system, water heater, and any other gas, oil, or coal burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.
  • Do not use portable flameless chemical heaters indoors.
  • If you smell an odor from your gas refrigerator have an expert service it. An odor from your gas refrigerator can mean it could be leaking CO.
  • When you buy gas equipment, buy only equipment carrying the seal of a national testing agency, such as Underwriters’ Laboratories.
  • Make sure your gas appliances are vented properly. Horizontal vent pipes for appliances, such as a water heater, should go up slightly as they go toward outdoors, as shown below. This prevents CO from leaking if the joints or pipes aren’t fitted tightly.
  • Have your chimney checked or cleaned every year. Chimneys can be blocked by debris. This can cause CO to build up inside your home or cabin.
  • Never patch a vent pipe with tape, gum, or something else. This kind of patch can make CO build up in your home, cabin, or camper.
  • Never use a gas range or oven for heating. Using a gas range or oven for heating can cause a build up of CO inside your home, cabin, or camper.
  • Never burn charcoal indoors. Burning charcoal – red, gray, black, or white – gives off CO.
  • Never use a portable gas camp stove indoors. Using a gas camp stove indoors can cause CO to build up inside your home, cabin, or camper.
  • Never use a generator inside your home, basement, or garage or less than 20 feet from any window, door, or vent.
  • When using a generator, use a battery-powered or battery backup CO detector in your home.

In terms of your vehicle, the CDC says to never run the engine inside a garage that’s attached to your house — even if the garage door is open.

Have a mechanic check the exhaust system of your car or truck every year, the CDC said. 

Parts of this story were reported from Atlanta.