Background: Carbon monoxide is the leading cause of mortality from unintentional poisoning in Slovenia. It has been shown that carbon monoxide levels can rise in wood pellet storerooms because of chemical degradation of pellets, even at room temperature. We present a case of lethal carbon monoxide poisoning with first responder carbon monoxide exposure.
Aims: To highlight the dangers rescuers face during interventions in pellet storerooms and the need for preventive precautions.
Case report: Paramedics and firemen were called to help an unconscious man in a wood pellet storeroom. Firemen immediately evacuated the victim and paramedics began cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Soon after, rescuers complained of dizziness and developed headache, nausea and fatigue. A carbon monoxide level of 600 ppm was detected. Three rescuers were treated with 100% oxygen. Blood carboxyhaemoglobin levels were up to 8% on arrival at the emergency department. The victim died and autopsy confirmed carbon monoxide poisoning.
Conclusions: First responders have to be aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide in wood pellet storerooms. Basic precautions and safety instructions should be followed before entering a wood pellet storeroom. Carbon monoxide should be measured before entering and self-contained breathing apparatus should be used. Wood pellet storerooms require continuous ventilation and should be equipped with carbon monoxide detectors.