Number of CO deaths left unconfirmed by medical examiner

As one case after another of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning presented itself last week — as one person after another was brought through the doors of Eastern Health’s hospitals and clinics — the health authority issued a public warning about the danger of CO exposure.

Despite that warning, the cases kept coming, albeit at a slower rate.

From Jan. 4-6, during the peak of a power shortage on the island of Newfoundland and in the midst of resulting blackouts, nine people arrived at Eastern Health facilities suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning.

The Telegram has learned seven more cases were recorded before the end of the week, bringing the total to 16.

As reported, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary confirmed one man died as a result of CO exposure.

The 49-year-old was found unconscious in a shed in Mount Pearl about 2:30 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 5 and rushed to hospital, but could not be saved.

Asked if any other case of CO poisoning ended with a death, Eastern Health directed the question to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. That office is tasked with determining cause of death.

Contacted Tuesday morning, there was no response to the submitted question before deadline.

The numbers made available by Eastern Health in regards to CO poisonings are only for that health authority.

Dangerous exhaust

“Most CO poisoning is the result of engine exhaust, often from running a generator, snowblower or car, or in some cases propane appliances. Use of these items is often more common during severe weather and/or power outages,” Eastern Health’s staff noted in the recent public warning on the topic.

During the week of power troubles, the warning was repeated by Vince MacKenzie, the fire chief in Grand Falls-Windsor and president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Fire Services; by Nalcor Energy president and CEO Ed Martin; by Newfoundland Power president and CEO Earl Ludlow; and by Premier Kathy Dunderdale.