December 25, 1996

Deaths From Motor-Vehicle—Related Unintentional Carbon Monoxide Poisoning—Colorado, 1996, New Mexico, 1980-1995, and United States, 1979-1992

JAMA. 1996;276(24):1942-1943. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03540240020012

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CARBON MONOXIDE (CO) is a colorless, odorless, toxic gas that is a product of incomplete combustion. Motor vehicles, heaters, and appliances that use carbon-based fuels are the main sources of this poison. Most fatal unintentional CO poisonings associated with motor vehicles are preventable and can result from differing mechanisms of exposure: (1) operation of a motor vehicle with a damaged or malfunctioning exhaust system and an inadequately ventilated passenger compartment, (2) operation of a motor vehicle in an enclosed space (e.g., a garage) with inadequate ventilation, and (3) use of auxiliary fuel-burning heaters inside a passenger compartment or in a camper.1-8

This report describes the investigation of deaths associated with multiple motor-vehicle-related CO poisonings in Colorado on November 3,1996, summarizes a review of such deaths in New Mexico during 1980-1995, and presents geographic and seasonal patterns in national death rates for 1979-1992. These findings