Linden, New Jersey Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Leaves One Child Dead

Attorney Gordon Johnson


A young boy is dead and his sister is in critical condition after the Linden, New Jersey carbon monoxide poisoning tragedy. While a carbon monoxide detector was installed in the home, it didn’t warn the family. The 9-year-old boy was pronounced dead shortly after the event, and his 10-year-old sister was taken to the hospital and transferred to a different hospital for specialized treatment.

When I read the article about this boy and his sister online at NBC New York, my first area of concern was the condition of the sister. Treating carbon monoxide poisoning with hyperbaric oxygen significantly reduces the cognitive sequelae (conditions resulting from an injury). In Dr. Lindell K. Weaver’s study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, “Hyperbaric Oxygen for Acute Carbon Monoxide Poisoning,” published in 2002, the group treated with hyperbaric oxygen saw much less frequent cognitive sequelae (25 percent) than in the normobaric oxygen group (46.1 percent.) Hyperbaric oxygen is pressurized to 2 or 3 atmospheres absolute. Normobaric oxygen is pressurized to 1 atmosphere absolute. In other words, those who just get oxygen through a mask will have more trouble than those who get treated in the hyperbaric chamber.

Those with brain damage after carbon monoxide poisoning make up the majority of our practice today, and we have found remarkable differences in the outcomes of those who get hyperbaric oxygen treatment and those who don’t. The biggest difference is in the degree of problems with secondary issues that occur after the effect of hypoxia (lack of oxygen to the brain) has worn off. The condition is called Delayed Neurological Sequelae and the problems worsen from day 1 to day 60 after the carbon monoxide poisoning occurs.

Tomorrow we will talk about the nature of those complications in our followup blog for concerns that may linger with the survivor of this Linden, New Jersey carbon monoxide poisoning incident.

Thousands of homeowners in the U. S. purchase backup power generators in case their electrical power is interrupted.  A significant and potentially fatal to humans and pets problem continually occurs with each severe storm and the use of gasoline and diesel generators.  The problem is that generators emit carbon monoxide.  Some generator owners fail to use the potentially life-saving machinery properly, but instead misuse them and turn them into life-threatening machines.

Serious injury and death in reports out of Maryland in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene indicate that no less than six people have been hospitalized and one person died due to carbon monoxide poisoning because they operated their gas or diesel powered generators indoors, either in their houses or garages, without proper ventilation.  Carbon monoxide poisoning is a major contributor to Traumatic Brain Injury.

Below is a link describing proper use of generators.

A Giants Food Store in Forks Township, Pa., had to be evacuated Monday as at least a half dozen people got sick from carbon monoxide poisoning.

The store was cleared at 9:30 p.m. when six to eight people in an area that was undergoing a renovation began feeling nauseous and getting headaches. One of those people collapsed.

Authorities blamed a propane tile cutter, which was in the construction area, with releasing the potentially fatal gas. The part of the store that was being renovated had been separated from the rest of the building with plastic tarp, and that was the area that had dangerous levels of carbon monoxide, authorities said.

Officials compared running a tile cutter inside like that as akin to leaving a car running in a garage.

In total 35 people were evacuated from the store, which is on Town Center Boulevard. They were all tested for carbon monoxide poisoning as a precaution.

As we keep saying, over and over, internal combustion engines cannot be run indoors. For more on carbon monoxide poisoning and prevention, go to

It is one of the most predictable connections we see in our daily comment on brain injury and the news. If there is severe weather, especially with a power outage, there will be a carbon monoxide story. Candles are OK; fires in fireplaces are OK. Any other substitution for electrical power or heat that involves combustion of fuel indoors, can and will kill.

After losing electric power following a horrific snow storm this week, eight family members in Maryland got sick from carbon monoxide after they used a grill to cook inside.

The people, including several children aged four to eight, were taken to a local hospital after the incident in Burtonsville, Md.

That neighborhood had lost power 4 a.m. Saturday, leaving residents to wake up to freezing temperature.

The family in question brought a charcoal grill inside their house to cook, and it released the carbon monoxide gas.

Firefighters came to the home about 9:30 a.m.

For more information about the risks of carbon monoxide exposure, go to

Dear Attorney Johnson:

I thought I’d share with you some of what happened yesterday when I spent Christmas with my dad, sister and nephew.

While driving to Kentucky, my dad was telling me that my nephew Jim was doing very well in the 6th grade making all A on his report card, but had missed 18 days of school. Jim’s doctor did some blood work and discovered that he had a carbon monoxide level of 3.1. He slept in a back room where the furnace was located. “So there was something wrong with the furnace?” My dad, who seems to be in eternal denial, responded, “Well, you know there are the fumes from the school buses. He did get sick when he went on a field trip.” I said, “If the cause of the problem were bus fumes, there would be a lot of kids having problems.” Then my dad says, “Well, there are a lot of other kids missing school as well.”

Fortunately, they did have Jim start sleeping in the front room. And my dad did replace the furnace even though he said that he had someone come out and check it and found “nothing wrong with it.” Jim’s carbon monoxide level did drop down to .6 once he started sleeping in the front room. He now has his own room that he sleeps in.

Well, that was my Christmas. We did have a pleasant time.


Date: 12/28/2008 7:52 AM

Associated Press Writer

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Dozens of Liberian immigrants mourned Saturday at a house where seven members of their community died in a fire that a survivor said started when a kerosene heater spilled fuel and exploded as it was being moved outdoors.

Authorities have not released the names of all the victims, but fire survivor Harris Murphy said those trapped in the basement blaze were part of the large Liberian enclave in southwest Philadelphia.

The blaze broke out around 10:45 p.m. Friday in a three-story brick duplex and killed three adults and four children, including a 1-year-old boy, fire department Executive Chief Daniel Williams said.

Fire officials said six victims were found huddled together in the front of the basement, one of them cradling the baby. The seventh was found near the basement door.

The boy was later pronounced dead at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

The medical examiner said three of the children died of smoke inhalation and one adult died of smoke inhalation and burns. Four victims were identified as Henry W. Gbokoloi, 54, of Yeadon; 8-year-old Ramere Markese Wright-Dosso; 6-year-old Mariam Iyanya Dosso, and 1-year-old Zyhire Xzavier Wright-Teah. The three children all lived with their mother nearby.

Four people survived the fire, including Murphy, 35, who lives down the street but was watching a movie with others at the home when the flames erupted.

Fire marshals have not yet released the cause of the blaze, but Murphy said it started after a woman added fuel to a kerosene heater and, when it became too hot, tried to move it outside through the basement’s only door.

Some of the flaming liquid spilled out and set the carpet on fire, Murphy said.

The heater then “exploded,” he said.

Murphy said he ran into a basement bathroom with Gbokoloi and some children, got in the tub and turned on the shower to try to wait out the flames until firefighters arrived. After a few moments, he said, he decided to make a break for it because the smoke was thickening.

A preliminary investigation showed the basement had one exit to the exterior and that the interior basement stairs had been removed, the fire department said in a statement. The fire commissioner said no smoke detectors were in the house.

Some Liberians who came to the house Saturday morning did not know who died but, because of the home’s location, feared they would know one or more of the victims. The neighborhood is home to many of the city’s 15,000 Liberian immigrants.

Anthony Kesselly, president of the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas, lives nearby and said he knew Gbokoloi very well. He came to the house when he heard the news Saturday morning and was not surprised to see the growing crowd.

“We are very close-knit people,” Kesselly said.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.

Date: 12/25/2008 7:29 AM

BEIJING (AP) — Sixty-five elementary school students in northern China were poisoned by carbon monoxide after smoke from a dormitory boiler seeped into their rooms, state media reported Thursday.

Nineteen were still being treated in hospitals in Inner Mongolia, the official Xinhua News Agency said. Meng Lei, a regional health official, told Xinhua that none were in serious condition.

Calls to provincial and city authorities, including the health and education departments, were not answered Thursday.

The students at Niuchang Primary School in Hohhot, the regional capital, reported feeling dizzy after waking up on Wednesday, Xinhua said.

The poisoning was caused by smoke that leaked from a boiler in the students’ dormitory, Xinhua said.

Earlier this month, 11 girls died from carbon monoxide poisoning in their dorm room in Shaanxi province after blankets fell onto a charcoal heater they were using to keep warm.

Carbon monoxide detectors are not required in schools in China, though the Education Ministry last year suggested that schools that use coal heating should install them.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas. Moderate exposure can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea and mental confusion. Prolonged exposure can lead to death.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.

Date: 12/16/2008 11:00 PM

BC-Carbon Monoxide,2nd Ld-Writethru/221

BELLINGHAM, Wash. (AP) — Nearly 30 people at a seafood business were hospitalized for carbon monoxide poisoning, officials said Tuesday.

Bellingham Fire Chief Bill Boyd said they were overcome by fumes at the Homeport Seafoods cold storage business. The fire department responded to a call Tuesday morning about a person passing out. When firefighters arrived, everyone was conscious, but people showing symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, which can include headaches, nausea and vomiting.

Investigators suspect warehouse doors — closed due to freezing temperatures — trapped carbon monoxide emissions from forklifts, Boyd said.

In all, 29 people arrived at St. Joseph Hospital with symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, said hospital spokeswoman Amy Cloud. Four were later transferred to Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle for treatment in a hyperbaric chamber, which increases oxygen pressure in body tissues and the amount of oxygen blood can transport, Cloud said.

A manager from Homeport Seafoods declined to comment.

Tony Gerbino, head of hyperbaric care at Virginia Mason, said people should be careful about running generators inside or close to windows of their homes.

Bellingham is about 90 miles north of Seattle.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.

As we have said repeatedly herein and on our website, engines cannot be run indoors, without ventilation designed for such use. Portable generators, forklifts, car engines and this time of year, snowblowers all create risks. Be particularly careful not to use your gas stove to supplement your heat when the temperature dips. For more on carbon monoxide poisoning, see our webpage at

Facts about carbon monoxide poisoning:

Most signs and symptoms of CO exposure are nonspecific (e.g., headache or nausea) and can be mistakenly attributed to other causes, such as viral illnesses. Undetected or unsuspected CO exposure can result in death. – Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report

The true incidence of CO poisoning is not known, since many non-lethal exposures go undetected. It has been estimated that one-third of all cases of CO poisoning are undiagnosed. – The Internet Journal of Emergency & Intensive Care Medicine

During 2001–2003, an estimated 15,200 persons with confirmed or possible non–fire-related CO exposure were treated annually in hospital EDs. In addition, during 2001–2002, an average of 480 persons died annually from non–fire-related CO poisoning. – Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report

The nonfatal rate for CO exposure was highest for children aged under 4 years (8.2 per 100,000 population), whereas the CO death rate was highest for adults aged over 65 years (0.32). Adults aged over 65 years accounted for 23.5% of CO poisoning deaths. – Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report

The annualized incidence of fatal and nonfatal CO exposures occurred more often during the fall and winter months, with the highest numbers occurring during December (56 fatal and 2,157 nonfatal exposures) and January (69 fatal and 2,511 nonfatal exposures). The annualized incidence was substantially lower during the summer months, with 21 fatal and 510 nonfatal exposures occurring during June and 22 fatal and 524 nonfatal exposures occurring during July. – Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report

The majority (64.3%) of nonfatal CO exposures were reported to occur in homes; 21.4% occurred in public facilities and areas. – Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report

CO from motor-vehicle exhausts is the single most common cause of poisoning deaths in the United.10 Of the 11,547 unintentional CO deaths during 1979-1988, 57% were caused by motor vehicle exhausts; of these 83% were associated with stationary vehicles. Most motor-vehicle-related CO deaths in garages have occurred even though the garage doors or windows have been open, suggesting that passive ventilation may not be adequate to reduce risk in semi-closed spaces. Smoke inhalation from all types of fires is the second leading cause of CO poisoning. Most immediate deaths from building fires are due to CO poisoning and therefore, fire fighters are at high risk. – The Internet Journal of Emergency & Intensive Care Medicine

…men and adults aged over 65 years were more likely to die from CO poisoning than other persons. The higher rate in men has been attributed to high-risk behaviors among men, such as working with fuel-burning tools or appliances. The higher rate among older persons has been attributed to the likelihood of older adults mistaking symptoms of CO poisoning for other conditions common among persons in this age group (e.g., influenza-like illnesses or fatigue). CO deaths were highest during colder months, likely because of increased use of gas-powered furnaces and use of alternative heating and power sources used during power outages, such as portable generators, charcoal briquettes, and propane stoves or grills. – Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report

The most common symptoms experienced were headache (37.5%), dizziness (18.0%), and nausea (17.3%). Severer symptoms were reported less often, including loss of consciousness (7.7%), shortness of breath (6.7%), and loss of muscle control (3.5%). According to medical records, 9.3% of patients in the NEISS-AIP sample reported that they had a CO detector at home, and 100% of those indicated that the detector had alerted them to the presence of CO. – Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report

Many victims of CO poisoning die or suffer permanent, severe neurological injury despite treatment. In addition, as many as 50% of those who recover consciousness and survive may experience varying degree of more subtle but still disabling neuropsychiatric sequela. – The Internet Journal of Emergency & Intensive Care Medicine

Date: 10/4/2008 1:58 PM

Associated Press Writer

GALVESTON, Texas (AP) _ The final hours brought the awful realization to victims of Hurricane Ike that they had waited too long. This storm wasn’t like the others, the ones that left nothing worse than a harrowing tale to tell.

George Helmond, a hardy Galveston salt, watched the water rise and told a buddy: I was born on this island and I’ll die on this island.

Gail Ettenger, a free spirit who adopted the Bolivar Peninsula as her home 15 years ago, told a friend in a last phone call: I really messed up this time.

Within hours, the old salt and the free spirit were gone as the powerful Category 2 hurricane wracked the Texas Gulf Coast on Sept. 13, flattening houses, obliterating entire towns and claiming at least 33 lives.

The dead — as young as 4, as old as 79 — included lifelong Galvestonians firmly rooted on the island and transplants drawn by the quiet of coastal living.

Seven people drowned in a storm surge that moved in earlier and with more ferocity than expected. Nine others died in the grimy, sweaty aftermath, when lack of power and medicine exacted its toll. Eleven people were poisoned by carbon monoxide or killed in fires from the generators they used in their own attempts to survive.

Hundreds of people remain missing three weeks after Ike’s assault on Texas. Local and city officials are no longer keeping their own count of missing residents, and the estimate varies wildly from one agency to another.

According to the nonprofit Laura Recovery Center, about 300 people are missing. Of those, about 200 from Galveston. However, the number “goes up and down by the minute” as people call in to remove or add names, cautioned executive director Bob Walcutt.

Some vanished during the evacuation of towns in the storm’s path. Many were last heard in desperate, last-ditch calls for help.

Immediately after the hurricane, Galveston officials conducted door-to-door searches for survivors and possible victims. But the city is no longer taking an active role in the search, city spokeswoman Alicia Cahill said.

Instead, search teams of sheriff’s deputies, volunteer firefighters and special K-9 search and recovery units have been using airboats and all-terrain vehicles to sift through debris fields, tangled and fetid marshlands, and the rubble left behind by Ike.

Bodies could have been tossed anywhere in the marshes, where thickets of trees are littered with the contents of houses. Refrigerators, office chairs, and television sets are scattered everywhere __ in the mud, in bushes, on treetops.

“We are definitely looking and are going to do anything we can to find them, but there may not be any answers to be given,” said Galveston County emergency management spokesman Colin Rizzo. “There are definitely going to be people from Hurricane Ike that are never found.”

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.