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.

Four people nearly died of carbon monoxide poisoning Sunday in Nebraska after a car was left running in a home’s attached garage.

Authorities were investigating the near-fatal incident that took place on Mulberry Court in La Vista, Neb. Police called to the scene found Terah Yager, 31, who was barely conscious and then actually collapsed.

Police rescued Yager, 27-year-old Nicole Meyer and two girls, both 12, from the home. In the house police encountered the overpowering smell of natural or petroleum-based gas, as well as smoke.

Meyer had left a car running in the garage on Saturday at 11 p.m., according to police. She and the girls were treated and released from Nebraska Medical Center, while Yager received treatment at the house.

Sunday morning the carbon monoxide level in the house was more than 500,000 parts per million, and constant exposure to Co levels above 150 to 200 parts per million can be deadly. Don’t run engines indoors. Any time someone is found unconscious with carbon monoxide poisoning, it is important that they continue to follow with a doctor in the days after the exposure, even if they have been discharged from the hospital. Carbon monoxide poisoning can get worse in the period of 2 to 40 days after the exposure. This is called delayed neurological sequalae or DNS. See For more on carbon monoxide poisoning and prevention, go to

Sometimes, I just wished more people could read our warnings about the risk of carbon monoxide exposure.  What I have come to learn about carbon monoxide and the news, if there is a big storm that knocks out power, someone will die because of the way they compensate for the absence of electricity.

After torrential rain and winds knocked out electricity in many parts of New Jersey this weekend, a Carteret, N.J. man was killed by carbon monoxide fumes from a generator he was using because he was without power.

The 49-year-old man, whose name wasn’t released, was discovered dead Saturday sitting on a couch in the basement of a Pine Street home. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Residents at that address had been using a portable generator because they had lost power due to the Northeaster storm. But one of the residents called police shortly after noon Saturday to report that some of his family members were sick and that a family friend was unconscious in the basement.

When firefighters and police arrived at the home, a married couple with two children were outside the home. They were taken to Raritan Bay Medical Center for treatment.

In the basement, the responders smelled the odor of gasoline and found the generator. It had been turned off. All the windows in the basement were closed.

Carbon monoxide poisoning can strike at some pretty surprising places, and Minnesota aims to do something about that. The state has introduced a bill that mandates that ice rinks install gear to check levels of carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide, hazardous gases that Zambonis emit.

The deadly gases sometimes build up to unsafe levels in ice arenas when ice resurfacers, such as Zambonis, have a fuel-burning engine that’s not maintained correctly. That’s an especially dangerous condition at ice rinks, because skaters are often breathing deeply, therefore taking in a large quantities of whatever fumes are around them.

Under the proposed bill, rinks would have to install electronic air-monitoring equipment. Those devices would have to sound an alarm when the concentration of carbon monoxide was at 12.5 million parts per million or more, and when nitrogen oxide hit 0.3 parts per million. Then those devices would trigger exhaust fans.

Right now under Minnesota law ice arena officials must tell the state when carbon monoxide is more than 30 parts per million or nitrogen oxide exceeds 0.5 parts per million.

The proposed legislation was written by Rep. Rick Hansen, who cited an incident where a hockey team from Morris, Minn., got ill from carbon monoxide exposure. One of his constituents, a figure skating instructor, also suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Only three states – Minnesota, Massachusetts and Rhode Island – have laws mandating that ice rinks monitor their air quality.

Internal combustion engines and the great indoors don’t mix. It is good to see that the recognition of that is increasing.

More than 250 students were evacuated and two restaurants were temporarily closed when high levels of carbon monoxide set of alarms at a Center Center building in Philadelphia early Monday morning, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The 17-story building, located at the corner of Broad and Chestnut Streets, houses a Capital Grille and an Olive Garden. Officials shut those eateries down when they measured carbon monoxide levels of as high as 3,800 parts per million in one of them, the Inquirer reported.

The historic building, 1346 Chestnut St., is also the residence for 552 students at the Art Institute of Philadelphia. They were sent to nearby hotels at the institute’s expense.

At concentrations of more than 150 to 200 parts per million, carbon monoxide causes disorientation, unconsciousness and even death, the Inquirer said, citing information from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Authorities Monday hadn’t determine the source of the carbon monoxide.

For a better understanding the full consequences of carbon monoxide exposure go to

New York’s law mandating the installation of carbon monoxide detectors in dwellings goes into effect Feb. 22.

The law requires that carbon monoxide alarms be installed in all new and existing one- and two-family homes, multi-family residences and rentals that have a fuel-burning appliance, system or attached garage, as reported this week by The Journal-Register of Medina, N.Y.

The paper recommends that to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, consumers should put in at least one carbon monoxide detector with an audible warning signal near sleeping areas and outside bedrooms. That alarm should have the approval of a nationally recognized lab, such as Underwriters Laboratories.

It is remarkable that laws mandating the installation of carbon monoxide detectors has lagged so far behind smoke detector requirements. Kudos to the NY State legislature. For more on the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning see:

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.


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: 9/24/2008 8:06 PM

ASUNCION, Paraguay (AP) _ A Paraguayan court convicted an architect of negligence Wednesday and sentenced him to two years in prison for faulty construction of a supermarket where 420 people died in a fire.

The three-judge panel that convicted Bernardo Ismachowiez, 53, found that he was responsible for defective design and construction that placed lives at risk. Prosecutors said there were not enough emergency exits.

Ismachowiez’s lawyer, Adolfo Ferreiro, promised to seek his client’s immediate release, saying he has already spent two years under house arrest.

More than 2,000 people were in the Ycua Bolanos supermarket in downtown Asuncion on Aug. 1, 2004, when the fire began in the bakery. The blaze quickly filled the building with thick smoke, and most of the victims died of asphyxiation.

More than 150 relatives of the fire’s victims protested outside the courthouse Wednesday, accusing the judges of corruption and calling them “scoundrels.”

“Even though the conviction is historic because it’s the first time a builder will go to prison for negligence, it’s unfortunate he received so few years,” said the leader of a victims’ association, Liz Torres.

The store’s owners and a security guard were previously given prison terms for manslaughter and endangerment on accusations they blocked the exit to keep shoppers from looting during the chaos.

But a court overturned their convictions this month, citing “serious defects” in the trial. Prosecutors are appealing.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.

BREWER, Maine (AP) — Carbon monoxide poisoning left two tenants unconscious and sickened many more in a 31-unit apartment complex, fire officials said. Officials believe a separated vent pipe from a new water heater allowed the colorless, odorless gas to seep into the building. Many of the victims were treated in a hyperbaric chamber.