Skip directly to search Skip directly to A to Z list Skip directly to site content
CDC Home

The content, links, and pdfs are no longer maintained and might be outdated.

  • The content on this page is being archived for historic and reference purposes only.
  • For current, updated information see the MMWR website.

Notes from the Field: Carbon Monoxide Exposures Reported to Poison Centers and Related to Hurricane Sandy — Northeastern United States, 2012

Hurricane Sandy made landfall as a post-tropical cyclone along the coast of southern New Jersey on Monday, October 29, 2012. In the wake of Sandy, state and federal public health agencies have observed an increase in the number of exposures to carbon monoxide (CO) reported to poison centers. CO is imperceptible and can cause adverse health effects ranging from fatigue and headache to cardiorespiratory failure, coma, and death (1). CO poisoning is a leading cause of mortality and morbidity in post-disaster situations, when widespread power outages occur and risky behaviors, such as improper placement of generators and indoor use of charcoal grills, increase (2,3).

As of November 6, a total of 263 CO exposures related to Hurricane Sandy had been reported to poison centers in eight states: 80 in New York, 61 in New Jersey, 44 in Connecticut, 39 in Pennsylvania, 27 in West Virginia, eight in Virginia, three in Maryland, and one in Delaware. Four of the reported exposures, all in Pennsylvania, resulted from the use of a generator in a garage and were fatal. This likely is an underestimation of the total number of fatal cases; larger numbers of CO-related deaths have been reported in the media. Where symptom information was available (n = 182), the most frequently reported symptoms were headache (69 cases, 37.9%), nausea (44 cases, 24.2%), and dizziness (36 cases, 19.8%). For comparison, the total number of CO exposures reported to poison centers and related to Hurricane Irene during August 28–September 2, 2011, was 49.

CO exposures can be prevented by 1) placing generators as far from homes as possible, but also at a safe distance from any nearby dwellings; the recommended distance for generator placement outside a home is a minimum of 25 feet (7.6 m) (3); 2) never using a generator, grill, camp stove, or other gasoline or charcoal-burning device inside a home, basement, garage, or outside near an open window; 3) never heating homes with a gas oven or by burning charcoal; 4) ensuring that fuel-burning space heaters are properly vented; 5) installing a battery-operated or battery back-up CO alarm in the home; and 6) leaving the building and dialing 911 if a CO alarm sounds, if CO poisoning is supected, or if any person begins to feel dizzy, light-headed, or nauseous. More information about CO poisoning is available at http://www.cdc.gov/co/guidelines.htm. For suspected cases of CO poisoning and other exposures, persons should call their regional poison center at 1-800-222-1222.

Reported by

Jacquelyn Clower, MPH, Cazador, Herndon, Virginia. Fred Henretig, MD, Jeanette Trella, PharmD, Childrens Hospital of Pennsylvania. Robert Hoffman, MD, Katherine Wheeler, New York City Dept of Hygiene and Mental Health; Angela Maxted, DVM, PhD, Charlene Weng, MS, Jian-Hua Chen, MD, Hwa-Gan Chang, PhD, Debra Blog, MD, New York State Dept of Health. Steven Marcus, MD, Bruce Ruck, PharmD, New Jersey Poison Information and Education System. Alvin Bronstein, MD, American Association of Poison Control Centers. Fuyuen Yip, PhD, Royal Law, MPH, Amy Wolkin, MSPH, Lauren Lewis, MD, Joshua G. Schier, MD, Div Environmental Hazards and Health Effects, National Center for Environmental Health, CDC. Corresponding contributor: Jacquelyn Clower, jclower@cdc.gov, 770-488-3700.

References

  1. Iqbal S, Yip FY. Carbon monoxide poisoning: health effects, surveillance, and epidemiology. In: Friis RG, ed. The Praeger handbook of environmental health. Vol. 2. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger; 2012.
  2. Hampson NB, Stock AL. Storm-related carbon monoxide poisonings: lessons learned from recent epidemics. Undersea Hyperb Med 2006;33:257–63.
  3. Iqbal S, Clower JH, Hernandez SA, Damon SA, Yip FY. A review of disaster-related carbon monoxide poisoning: surveillance, epidemiology, and opportunities for prevention. Am J Public Health 2012;102:1957–63.

Use of trade names and commercial sources is for identification only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

References to non-CDC sites on the Internet are provided as a service to MMWR readers and do not constitute or imply endorsement of these organizations or their programs by CDC or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. CDC is not responsible for the content of pages found at these sites. URL addresses listed in MMWR were current as of the date of publication.


All MMWR HTML versions of articles are electronic conversions from typeset documents. This conversion might result in character translation or format errors in the HTML version. Users are referred to the electronic PDF version (http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr) and/or the original MMWR paper copy for printable versions of official text, figures, and tables. An original paper copy of this issue can be obtained from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO), Washington, DC 20402-9371; telephone: (202) 512-1800. Contact GPO for current prices.

**Questions or messages regarding errors in formatting should be addressed to mmwrq@cdc.gov.

 
USA.gov: The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention   1600 Clifton Road Atlanta, GA 30329-4027, USA
800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) TTY: (888) 232-6348 - Contact CDC–INFO
A-Z Index
  1. A
  2. B
  3. C
  4. D
  5. E
  6. F
  7. G
  8. H
  9. I
  10. J
  11. K
  12. L
  13. M
  14. N
  15. O
  16. P
  17. Q
  18. R
  19. S
  20. T
  21. U
  22. V
  23. W
  24. X
  25. Y
  26. Z
  27. #