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Women, children sickened at homeless shelter

Staff Writer

EDISON — Twelve women and 16 children were taken to area hospitals after falling ill Sunday — possibly by carbon monoxide poisoning, according to the township’s emergency management coordinator.

The women and children, all temporarily housed at Catholic Charities’ Ozanam Family Shelter on Truman Drive, were taken for treatment on Jan. 26 to Robert Wood Johnson University Medical Center and St. Peter’s University Medical Hospital, both in New Brunswick, and to JFK Medical Center’ satellite emergency center in South Plainfield, according a press release by Edison Township.

In the midst of Winter Storm Jonas, which dropped upwards of 20 inches of snow and brought heavy winds to the area over the weekend, PSE&G crews and the township Fire Department were dispatched to the Ozanam Shelter where they detected concentrations of carbon monoxide in one part of facility after a woman became ill.

After the woman was hospitalized, levels of carbon monoxide were found in her blood stream, said township OEM Coordinator Capt. Andew Toth.

Carbon monoxide (CO), called the “Invisible Killer” by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas that is slightly less dense than air. It is toxic for humans and animals in blood stream concentrations greater than 35 parts per million, according to medical research.

Shelter personnel told Edison officials the facility had its own HVAC contractor inspect and service its heating systems on Sunday. On Jan. 25, however, more women and children began to complain of fevers, nausea and vomiting “which resulted in a rapid and immediate emergency response,” Toth said.

Township officials said these women and children were experiencing carbon-monoxide like symptoms; however, their illness could not definitively be linked to the deadly gas.

On the scene at the Ozanam Shelter were personnel from the Edison fire and police departments, the Middlesex County HAZMAT response team, PSE&G emergency crews, and emergency medical personnel from area hospitals.

A message for Marianne Majewski, executive director of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Metuchen, was not returned by deadline.

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