Half of deaths from Hurricane Laura were caused by CO poisoning

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/09/03/half-of-deaths-from-hurricane.html



I was very confused trying to work out what “CO” was.

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No substitution required. CO (Carbon monoxide) is highly poisonous. If CO₂ was, we’d be in real trouble.

(Not that CO₂ isn’t problematic for other reasons, of course)


Oh snap, you’re right!

/me derp


Sad, but in some ways encouraging. You have a quarter of a million people without power, and half the Hurricane Laura deaths come from just two events with portable generators. This feels almost at the experimental noise level. There are just so many dumb ways to die.

I wonder if the solution might be to have a CO detector built into the generator, so it cuts out when CO levels rise. You can’t expect people to read the instructions and warning label on a grubby camping generator when the lights are out.


Pedantically speaking, CO2 is slightly toxic at high concentrations (as is oxygen) but, unlike with CO, you can tell if you’re breathing in too much CO2. In fact, the sensation of suffocation is produced by excess CO2, not lack of oxygen, which is what makes inert gases like nitrogen dangerous in confined spaces – you can be breathing air with no oxygen in it, but you won’t notice the problem (until you black out) because the concentration of CO2 is no more than usual.


The death toll could be reduced with low CO generators and automatic sensor cut off. The industry is fighting hard against making generators safer. https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2017/12/regulations-portable-generators-cpsc-buerkle/547781/


[quote=“peter, post:7, topic:179534”]
The industry is fighting hard against

This statement right here should replace e pluribus unum.


Because they are still using polluting carburettor engines. (or mechanical pump diesels).
Electronic injection is of course more expensive, you need two lambda sensors, injectors and so on.

I’ve noticed that a lot of manufacturers of garden equipment are selling more and more mains powered or battery powered tools like lawnmowers or chainsaws, and I suppose because the Euro anti pollution rules are making more interesting the electric motor and of course batteries now are more comact and powerful now.

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Generally speaking you are right, but when CO2 displaces oxygen in confined spaces sometimes it may be to late to notice. Another problem is that it causes kind of panic attack and it may be impossible to think rationally. Here’s a video of two people who really should know better entering a tunnel with high CO2 concentration and only barely avoiding death (action starts at 5:00):

That’s why it’s extremely important to use multi gas sensor when entering confined spaces. Here’s how bad the air in the tunnel really was:

I recently bought a mains-powered chainsaw and I’m happy with it. Using my Husqvarna 51 gas chainsaw is way more fun (the sound and power of it makes it hard not to smile), but electric saw is so much less hassle. No need to buy and mix fuel, no need to warmup.


Yes, When I have to use a petrol lawnmower especially if not used from some time, I spend a lot of time to try to start it, and try to find why doesn’t start, do the dance to check the spark plug, check the carburettor, and retry to start could take the time I actually mow the lawn…
I have a mains powered hedge trimmer and the simple fact it doesn’t stall when it catches a big branch makes way easier to trim the bushes.


I wonder if the solution might be to have a CO detector built into the generator, so it cuts out when CO levels rise.

The problem with that is the generator isn’t supposed in the same room or in an enclosed space. Put the generator outside and run a cord inside to whatever you want to power. Crack a window or door open on the other side of the building open for ventilation.

And if you run gas generators, have some CO sensors in your building. They have really simple ones that you just plug in like a night light.


I can’t tell you how many times I cut through the cord on my electric hedge trimmers. However it never happened with my cheap electric chainsaw, probably because you wave it around much less…


I think that it’s also because you have to pay way more attention when using chainsaw.

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Electric tools have come a long way, but for heavy work there’s still no replacement for ICE. When I’m clearing felled trees with my dad in the back 80 acres, 1/4 mile from the house, breaking down 30” trunks, an electric chainsaw wouldn’t even make the list of options.


I ran over the extension cord twice with my electric lawnmower before i bought a rechargeable battery type. I love it, but my quarter acre is mostly wooded so the battery never runs down during use.


<very Consevative commentator voice>

“Well, they didn’t die from the hurricane, they died from carbon monoxide poisoning. So it shouldn’t count towards the statistics!”


(Reference, in case you’re not sure what I’m getting at here:)


Also be careful, sitting in a stationary car with the heat or A/C on to stay warm/cool…
…if exhaust is leaking in, an easy way to off yourself. Especially dangerous if you are napping.

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