Reducing the Risk of Death Due to Vehicle-Related Carbon Monoxide Poisoning


Emissions of carbon monoxide (CO) from motor vehicles cause several hundred accidental fatal poisonings annually in the United States. The circumstances that could lead to fatal poisonings in residential settings with motor vehicles as the source of CO were explored. The risk of death in a garage (volume = 90 m3) and a single-family dwelling (400 m3) was evaluated using a Monte Carlo simulation with varying CO emission rates and ventilation rates. Information on emission rates was obtained from a survey of motor vehicle exhaust gas composition under warm idle conditions in California, and information on ventilation rates was obtained from a summary of published measurements in the U.S. housing stock. The risk of death ranged from 16 to 21% for a 3-hr exposure in a garage to 0% for a 1-hr exposure in a house. Older vehicles were associated with a disproportionately high risk of death. Removing all pre-1975 vehicles from the fleet would reduce the risk of death by one-fourth to two-thirds, depending on the exposure scenario. Significant efforts have been made to control CO emissions from motor vehicles with the goal of reducing CO concentrations in outdoor air. Substantial public health benefit could also be obtained if vehicle control measures were designed to take account of acute CO poisonings explicitly.


Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering

Keywords and Phrases

Accidental Death; Accidental Death Risk; Carbon Monoxide Intoxication; Carbon Monoxide Poisoning; Health Risks; Motor Vehicle

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)


Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version


File Type





© 1998 Air and Waste Management Association, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Oct 1998

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