Nearly 20 workers at Fargo bird food plant hospitalized after carbon monoxide exposure
FARGO - Nearly 20 workers at a north Fargo bird food plant that apparently didn't have carbon monoxide detectors landed in the hospital Wednesday because of exposure to gas.
FARGO – Nearly 20 workers at a north Fargo bird food plant that apparently didn’t have carbon monoxide detectors landed in the hospital Wednesday because of exposure to gas.
Emergency personnel evaluated 24 workers at Red River Commodities Bird Food and transported 16 of them to the hospital, said F-M Ambulance Director of Operations Chad Mickelson. Another three went to the hospital on their own.
Firefighters testing for carbon monoxide in the plant found levels in some areas that were six times what is safe, Fargo Fire Battalion Chief Bruce Anderson said.
Anderson said he was not aware of any carbon monoxide detectors in the plant.
Mickelson said the “elevated level” of the gas was “consistent with what we were seeing in the patients.”
Firefighters responded at about 2:20 p.m. to the plant following a report of workers feeling unwell and having symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, Anderson said.
Firefighters evacuated the plant at 340 40th St. N. when they detected high levels of carbon monoxide, he said.
In some parts of the building, firefighters detected carbon monoxide levels of over 300 parts per million, he said. For short time periods, exposure to 50 parts per million of carbon monoxide is considered safe, he said.
But “the level should normally be close to zero, or slightly above that,” Anderson said.
One or more overhead gas-powered heaters that likely caused the high carbon monoxide levels were shut down and firefighters aired out the building, he said.
The plant workers apparently knew there was an unusually high level of carbon monoxide, an odorless and colorless gas that can be lethal, when workers noted to one another they were having headaches, Anderson said.
“It was smart of them to, kind of, do the math and put things together and say, ‘Well maybe there’s a problem in the building,’ ” he said.
It’s the second high-profile carbon monoxide scare in Fargo-Moorhead this week. Dozens of youth hockey players and others suffered headaches and nausea from carbon monoxide poisoning at Teamsters Arena hockey rink on Sunday.