A comparison of carbon monoxide exposures after snowstorms and power outages

  • Johnson-Arbor K
  • Quental A
  • Li D
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Abstract

Background Unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning occurs frequently after natural disasters. Although the epidemiology of carbon monoxide exposures that occur after power loss storms has been reported, few publications detail the characteristics of carbon monoxide exposures after massive snowstorms. Purpose To compare the differences in patient characteristics of carbon monoxide exposures after a snowstorm and power loss storm. Methods In 2013, a retrospective review was conducted of patient characteristics and exposure data from all carbon monoxide cases reported to the Connecticut Poison Control Center in the days following both a major snowstorm in 2013 and a winter storm that caused extensive power outages in 2011. Results Portable generators were the most common source of carbon monoxide exposure after a storm that resulted in power losses; car exhaust was the most frequent source of exposure after an extensive snowstorm. Most exposures occurred within the first day after the snowstorm, and on the second and third days after the power outage storm. There were no significant differences between the two storms in terms of patient age, gender, or median carboxyhemoglobin concentration. Conclusions Future public health and medical education regarding the dangers of carbon monoxide in the aftermath of storms should include attention to the differences in the typical exposure sources and timing. © 2014 American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

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