Carbon Monoxide Poisoning


Case 1: : A 33 year old farm owner was using an 11 HP gasoline pressure washer to clean a swine birthing area inside a barn. He was working alone in this 3420 ft3 area with the door closed on this cold (-7 to 20° F) day. Based on the amount of work he had finished when he was found dead, he had been overcome in about 30 minutes. His COHb was 75.6%.

Case 2 : A 12 year old boy was found unconscious near the door of a 4480 ft3 swine birthing area that he had been cleaning with a rented 11 HP gasoline pressure washer for about 30 minutes. Again, due to cold temperatures, the washer had been placed inside the building (about 5 feet from the door.)

He was taken to the hospital, where his COHb was determined to be 50%. He received hyperbaric oxygen therapy and was discharged after 8 days of hospitalization.

Case 3: : A 35 year old farm owner was found by her husband to have slurred speech, weakness and confusion. Over a 7 hour period, she had been intermittently using a 4 HP gasoline pressure washer to clean a calf raising area (4480 ft3). Outdoor temperatures were about 32° F, so she had set the washer inside the building about 5 feet from an open doorway. The other 2 doors in the room were also open, and an exhaust fan was running.

She insisted she was ok, just tired. Her COHb, measured about 90 minutes after exposure was 18.8%. She was treated with oxygen and released.

Case 4: : A 32 year old farm owner was found by her husband to be confused, dizzy, nauseated, weak and experiencing a headache and muscle pain. She had been cleaning a 5148 ft3 swine birthing area with a 13 HP gasoline pressure washer intermittently for 6.5 hours. The washer was located in an adjacent room, and 3 exhaust fans were operating in the room being cleaned. It was suspected that the door leading to the adjacent room blew open sometime during the final hour of work, allowing CO to enter the room being cleaned.

Her COHb was 9.2% 5 hours post-exposure and after receiving oxygen therapy for 30 minutes.

Case 5: : A 37 year old farm owner was found by his wife to be extremely weak, dizzy and confused. He had been using a 9 HP gasoline pressure washer to clean a 6480 ft3 unventilated swine birthing area for about 30 minutes. His symptoms appeared when he began to refuel the washer, located inside the building. He crawled into the house, where his wife found him and took him to the hospital.

His COHb was 27.5%, 2 hours after exposure. He was treated with oxygen and released.

Center for Disease Control. Unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning from indoor use of pressure washers - Iowa, January, 1992 - 1993. JAMA, 270: 2034-2035, 1993.

What this study shows:

last changed 12/25/99

Back to Case Study Index