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Characterization of Carbon Monoxide Exposure During Hurricane Sandy and Subsequent Nor’easter

  • Amy Schnall (a1), Royal Law (a1), Amy Heinzerling (a2), Kanta Sircar (a1), Scott Damon (a1), Fuyuen Yip (a1), Josh Schier (a1), Tesfaye Bayleyegn (a1) and Amy Wolkin (a1)...



Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas produced by fossil fuel combustion. On October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy moved ashore near Atlantic City, New Jersey, causing widespread morbidity and mortality, $30 to $50 billion in economic damage, and 8.5 million households to be without power. The combination of power outages and unusually low temperatures led people to use alternate power sources, placing many at risk for CO exposure.


We examined Hurricane Sandy–related CO exposures from multiple perspectives to help identify risk factors and develop strategies to prevent future exposures. This report combined data from 3 separate sources (health departments, poison centers via the National Poison Data System, and state and local public information officers).


Results indicated that the number of CO exposures in the wake of Hurricane Sandy was significantly greater than in previous years. The persons affected were mostly females and those in younger age categories and, despite messaging, most CO exposures occurred from improper generator use.


Our findings emphasize the continued importance of CO-related communication and ongoing surveillance of CO exposures to support public health response and prevention during and after disasters. Additionally, regional poison centers can be a critical resource for potential on-site management, public health promotion, and disaster-related CO exposure surveillance. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2017;11:562–567)


Corresponding author

Correspondence and reprint requests to Amy Schnall, MPH, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Environmental Health, 4770 Buford Highway, MS F60, Atlanta, GA 30305 (e-mail:


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