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Carbon monoxide exposures during flood relief activities.

Almaguer D; Martinez K; Miller A; Cook C
American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Exposition, May 9-15, 1998, Atlanta, Georgia. Fairfax, VA: American Industrial Hygiene Association, 1998 May; :84
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has recently received nunerous requests to assist state and local health departments assess occupational health risks of workers involved with flood cleanup and recovery activities. In response, NIOSH investigators began evaluating select groups of workers performing disaster relief. During a recent visit at one flood site workers were observed using gasoline-powered pressure washers with the engine placed indoors. The flood relief workers and their supervisors were advised of the hazards and given NIOSH documents warning of the dangers associated with using gasoline powered equipment indoors. Upon returning to the site the following day, flood relief workers were again observed using gasoline-powered equipment with the engine placed indoors. Subsequently, personal-breathing zone (PBZ) air samples for carbon monoxide (CO) were collected on workers using gasoline- powered pressure washers inside an auto repair garage with all the windows and garage doors open. The PBZ air sample results show that some workers were exposed to peak CO concentrations in excess of the NLOSH ceiling limit of 200 ppm, and 10 TWA concentrations approaching the ACGIH threshold limit value of 25 ppm. This data demonstrates that CO concentrations will accumulate to dangerous levels despite attempts to dilute the concentrations by opening all windows and doors. It was recommended that pressure-washers be fitted with longer hoses allowing the engine to remain outdoors during cleanup operations. This study and additional data collected by NIOSH investigators during the spring floods in Grand Forks, North Dakota, where 39 cases of CO poisonings were recorded, indicates that the use of gasoline-powered equipment, with the engine placed indoors, is a recurring and serious problem. Attempts to communicate the dangers associated with the use of gasoline-powered equipment with the engine placed indoors should be addressed through information dissemination to all disaster relief organizations, equipment manufacturers, local fire departments, police departments, tool and equipment rental stores, and the general public.
Emergency-response; Emergency-equipment; Hazardous-waste-cleanup; Carbon-compounds; Oxides; Public-health; Risk-analysis; Power-generation; Power-tools; Gases; Poison-gases; Equipment-operators; Indoor-air-pollution; Exposure-levels; Exposure-limits; Threshold-limit-values; Poison-control; Safety-education; Health-hazards
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American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Exposition, May 9-15, 1998, Atlanta, Georgia
Page last reviewed: April 8, 2022
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division