Two Dead, Four Injured in Boston from CO Poisoning Related to Blizzard

Cars covered in snow.

Two people have died and four people were treated for carbon monoxide poisoning in Boston related to this past weekend’s blizzard, according to the Boston Public Health Commission. 

The posioning occured after the victims failed to clear their car’s tailpipe from snow blockages before starting their cars. 

One of the deaths in Boston was a 14-year-old Roxbury boy who he went inside a running car to keep warm while his father shoveled, the Boston Globe reported. 

In the second incident, a man was found dead in a car with a blocked tailpipe in Mattapan, police said. 

Katinka Podmaniczky, spokesperson for the BPHC, stressed how important it is to clear cars of snow properly before starting them.

“[We are trying to] get the word out about how important it is to clear the tailpipe and undercarriage before turning it on, or getting in,” she said. “We also suggest cracking the windows while you’re warming up the car.”

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas. It prevents the body from using oxygen, which can cause damage to the heart, brain, and other organs – even death. Because it is invisible and has no smell, people often do not realize that they are breathing CO.

Carbon monoxide isn’t just found in cars and trucks. It can also be found in gas ranges, ovens, and clothing dryers, gas and oil heating systems, BBQ grills and fireplaces, gas/propane space heaters, blocked or damaged flue pipes. 

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in Vehicles
If a vehicle is left running in an enclosed space, or if the tailpipe is blocked by snow or ice, CO can build up in the car and create a very dangerous situation.

  • NEVER run your car or truck until it is completely cleared of snow and ice, including the undercarriage.
  • Be sure to clear at least 1 foot of snow all around and under your motor vehicle, including the tailpipe, before starting it.
  • Keep your car windows open to allow for fresh air when warming up your car.

DO’s and DON’Ts To Protect Yourself from CO Poisoning

  • DO keep air intakes for heating systems and appliances clear of obstructions. 
  •  DO be sure that any generators are placed at least 20 feet from your home. 
  • DO keep all oil- and gas-fired heating systems and appliances well maintained and have them inspected and cleaned yearly. Keep exhaust vents clear of snow and debris.
  • DO install a CO detector (available at any hardware or home improvement store). The Boston Fire Department requires that all homes and apartments with a potential source of CO must have a working CO alarm installed in each apartment and on each occupied floor.
  • DON’T warm your car up in a garage with the door closed.
  • DON’T heat your house with your stove, oven, or gas/propane space heaters.
  • DON’T operate any combustion engine indoors.

Early symptoms of CO poisoning are feeling drowsy, confusion, headaches, fainting, and dizziness. People often do not realize that they are exposed until they are seriously ill.

If you experience symptoms, or your CO detector goes off: Leave immediately and call the Boston Fire Department at 9-1-1. 

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