I’m sure that many of you already know about the dangers of carbon monoxide (CO). You’ve heard it in school, from the fire department, and you probably have several CO detectors in your own home. CO is a silent killer that can’t be seen, smelled, or heard, but in high enough levels, can kill you and your loved ones within hours.
But, what if it’s not in high enough levels to kill you immediately? What if it’s high enough to make you sick, but low enough that you still receive the oxygen you need?
Beginning in March, 2013, over 140 citizens of two towns in Kazakhstan, Kalachi and Krasnogorsk, began experiencing a strange sleeping sickness. Many of these people would fall asleep for no reason, even sometimes while standing up or walking! Some fell asleep for days at a time, the record being six days in a row. Many of these people, though seemingly conscious, would actually be asleep and upon waking would remember nothing. While one side of the town would be affected, the other would feel perfectly fine. Several days later, the opposite would occur. The worst side-effect of this illness, though, was the hallucinations. Some reported seeing frightening creatures during those brief times of consciousness. Age didn’t matter, with both the elderly and children affected. Species didn’t matter, either, as it seemed the towns’ pets were also adversely affected. One woman reported that her pet cat began attacking the dog, furniture, and walls, only to then fall into a deep sleep, not even responding to the smell of cat food.
Local experts and doctors misdiagnosed the patients over many months. Some claimed that counterfeit vodka caused the illness, while others blamed a mass psychosis. The towns were checked for excess radiation and radon levels due to the now-closed nearby uranium mines, but that didn’t check out. Until, that is, someone examined the carbon monoxide levels. When doctors took blood samples from those affected, they found many had carboxyhemoglobin (CO in red blood cells that hinders the delivery of oxygen) levels at 25%, which is considered a medium-level CO poisoning.
Viktor Krukev, former director of the local uranium mines, theorized that once the mines shut down, groundwater was no longer being pumped out of the mine. The rise in groundwater caused whatever gas was in the mine and rocks to be pushed out through fissures. One of those gases was carbon monoxide. The mines, closed some 34 years before, had reached the maximum groundwater level in 2014, the year in which the strange illness peaked in Kalachi and Krasnogorsk. Carbon monoxide was being released from the mine and, depending upon wind direction, affecting citizens of the neighboring towns.
Starting in July, 2015, the Kazakhstani government began relocating affected families and the illness subsided. But, what does this mean for you and for PGI? It means that we take our responsibilities to our clients very seriously. Just as we check electro-magnetic field levels in your home, we also check carbon monoxide levels. Appliances such as your furnace, water heater, gas stove and oven, dryer, and fireplace can cause elevated levels of carbon monoxide. Your home CO levels should be the same as outdoor levels (no more than 2.5 parts per million or 2.5 ppm). If you have carbon monoxide detectors, they will alert you if the levels go above normal. But if you don’t, we use a carbon monoxide sensor that can detect CO levels inside as well as out. Medium CO poisoning can bring about hallucinations and if what you’re experiencing isn’t ghosts but CO poisoning, then we want to know so that we can get you the help you need.
So, if you ever see one of our investigators carrying CarMon (our name for our CO detector), it’s not some strange, experimental piece of paranormal equipment. It’s yet another tool in our arsenal to help us ensure that we’ve covered all the natural, or normal, explanations before we jump to the paranormal.