How car exhaust kills during and after blizzards

by CynthiaYockey on December 19, 2009

Today, Dec. 19, we have gotten most of the 24 inches of snow expected here in Bel Air, Maryland, birthplace of John Wilkes Booth, our contribution to the nation’s heritage.

Maryland doesn’t get deep snows every winter, so it is common that people do not have the skills and/or tools to deal with a big snowfall. But I went to the University of Michigan where I learned snow survival skillz.

So I am posting the warning that the radio and TV stations forget: do NOT allow a car to idle when snow is blocking the tailpipe. The reason is that the car exhaust backs up into a car when the tailpipe is blocked. The car exhaust is filled with carbon monoxide. Also, remember that if you sit in an idling car for a long time during a snow fall, if you haven’t cleared enough snow away from the tailpipe, more snow could fall to block it up again.

When you are breathing in car exhaust, you do not realize you are being poisoned to death because the hemoglobin in your blood will accept both the oxygen molecule or the carbon monoxide molecule where the oxygen belongs. Carbon monoxide doesn’t irritate your lungs and make you cough, so there’s no warning symptom — you just get sleepy and fall asleep and never wake up. It takes 15 minutes to die of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Bonus warning:

Never warm up your car in your garage while the garage door is closed. When I lived in Silver Spring, an entire family died there because one family member left the garage door closed while warming up the car, even though the door between the house and the garage also was closed. The wisest thing to do is open the garage door before turning your car on. And your car doesn’t need that much time to warm up — the Car Talk guys say you only need to warm up your car for about 15 seconds anyway before putting it in gear.

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