Virginia Tech students poisoned by gas leak

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August 26, 2007

11:44 AM

Twenty-three students at Virginia Tech were treated for carbon monoxide poisoning last Monday.

p. Five students, who lived in the same apartment, were in critical condition and three were in stable condition. Eighteen others were treated for less serious effects of the poisoning. Helicopters flew the unresponsive students to hospitals; two went to University of Virginia Medical Center and three went to Duke University Medical Center. The 18 other students were treated at the local Montgomery Regional Hospital.

p. Their apartment was located in an apartment complex near the Virginia Tech campus. All the doors in the girls’ apartment were closed and none of the apartments have carbon monoxide detectors.

p. Residents downstairs called to investigate a smell; they also felt nauseous and light-headed.

p. All buildings are undergoing inspections and having carbon monoxide detectors installed.

p. They are still closed for inspection; the fire department provided housing in a nearby hotel.

p. The leak was caused by a hot water heater with a bad pressure relief valve that did not let the carbon monoxide vent. The gas was seeping into the apartment for hours, and it reached up to 500 parts per million of carbon monoxide. This is a potentially fatal level, as once carbon monoxide in a room reaches only 25 ppm, people begin to show symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.

p. The amount of carbon dioxide in the bodies of students in critical condition was 40 percent.

p. The normal amount in the human body is 1 percent. These students were treated in a hyperbaric chamber, which pushes pressurized oxygen into blood and tissues.

p. The news broke as faculty and students gathered for a memorial for the shooting victims of last April. It was also the day before the beginning of classes.

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