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Old 05-02-2011, 04:50 PM
HeyHomie HeyHomie is offline
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Suicide By Carbon Monixide Poisoning (Don't Need Answer Fast)

A relative of Mrs. Homie committed suicide by running a hose from his exhaust pipe to the window of his car, which he sealed up. Cause of death: carbon monoxide poisoning.

I didn't know the guy much at all, but it pains me to believe that he died a prolonged, agonizing death. However, I admit that this is a subject I know nothing about.

Is a death by carbon monoxide painful? How long did it take him to die (it was a sub-compact, on the order of a Toyota Corrolla, if it matters)?
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  #2  
Old 05-02-2011, 04:57 PM
RealityChuck RealityChuck is offline
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In general, you just fall asleep and never wake up. You may also have a headache, nausea, and dizziness, but nothing acutely painful.

How long would depend on the size of the garage and how much CO the car is putting out.
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Old 05-02-2011, 06:06 PM
HeyHomie HeyHomie is offline
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It wasn't in a garage. He ran a hose from the exhaust pipe to the windows and sealed them with duct tape.
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Old 05-02-2011, 06:15 PM
BubbaDog BubbaDog is offline
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It's not very painful at all. People who have fortunately escaped death in homes that were slowly filling up with CO due to faulty furnace ventilation etc have said that their only symptoms were similar to the feeling of coming down with the flu.
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  #5  
Old 05-02-2011, 06:23 PM
buddha_david buddha_david is offline
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Not only is CO poisoning relatively painless, you leave behind a healthy-looking corpse.
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Old 05-02-2011, 06:38 PM
code_grey code_grey is offline
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given that many people in 3rd world countries die from it while sleeping due to bad cooking utensils and poor ventilation, presumably it's not painful.

Incidentally, O'Henry mentions using lamp gas (i.e. presumably http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coal_gas ) for painless suicides. That thing consists of a mix of methane and CO, and both of them are described as working via the same mechanism of replacing oxygen in the blood.
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Old 05-02-2011, 06:41 PM
Zsofia Zsofia is offline
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I came damned close to accidentally doing it to myself (we thought we had plenty of ventilation for the gas powered pressure washer... we didn't) - no, you just get confused and numb and hopefully there's somebody who hasn't been quite as close to it who figures out what's going on.
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Old 05-02-2011, 07:16 PM
mac_bolan00 mac_bolan00 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by code_grey View Post
given that many people in 3rd world countries die from it while sleeping due to bad cooking utensils and poor ventilation, presumably it's not painful.
what i see here around here are fires from leaking gasul tanks and exploding pressurized kerosene lamps. suicide from carbon monoxide inhalation appears to be a western option.
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Old 05-02-2011, 07:38 PM
GreasyJack GreasyJack is offline
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It should be mentioned that suicide by car exhaust is much less reliably lethal these days because of catalytic converters. Though a successful carbon monoxide suicide might be relatively painless, in the increasingly-common situation that you survive the initial attempt, there can be some fairly unpleasant neurological complications after the fact, some of which can result in a rather painful death hours to days later. See for example: http://chestjournal.chestpubs.org/co...115/2/580.full
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Old 05-02-2011, 07:50 PM
LSLGuy LSLGuy is online now
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With the very low levels of CO in modern car exhaust, killing oneself by inhaling exhaust is a much different experience from what it used to be. Back in the 70s it was as described above.

Nowadays you're poisoned by a bunch of other noxious chemicals first. And to all reports it's pretty miserable. It also doesn't respond well to conventional oxygen therapy, so it's harder for teh medics to save the almost gone.

In all, modern car exhaust is not the easy painless way out a lot of folks seem to believe.


ETA: Or what GreasyJack was writing at the same time I was ...

Last edited by LSLGuy; 05-02-2011 at 07:51 PM..
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  #11  
Old 05-03-2011, 07:26 AM
Machine Elf Machine Elf is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by code_grey View Post
Incidentally, O'Henry mentions using lamp gas (i.e. presumably http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coal_gas ) for painless suicides. That thing consists of a mix of methane and CO, and both of them are described as working via the same mechanism of replacing oxygen in the blood.
Nitpick: CO is a toxin, and methane is an asphyxiant.

Methane doesn't replace oxygen in your blood, it simply displaces atmospheric oxygen in bulk quantities; to kill someone with methane, you have to pump enough of it into the room to drastically reduce the oxygen content of the room (by about half before serious symptoms arise, by about 2/3 to reliably kill).

OTOH, yes, CO does replace oxygen in your blood; hemoglobin has a far greater affinity for CO than for oxygen, so even when there's lots of oxygen in the air around a victim and just a little bit of CO, the CO will take all of the seats on the bus, leaving oxygen behind at the bus stop. To kill someone with CO, you only need to pump enough of it into the room to poison them, and that happens in far smaller quantities: an atmosphere with a normal percentage of oxygen and just 0.08% CO is enough to make you sick; 0.16% is enough to kill you.
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Old 05-03-2011, 07:35 AM
lieu lieu is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by buddha_david View Post
Not only is CO poisoning relatively painless, you leave behind a healthy-looking corpse.
Perhaps if it's delivered by some other means than that described in the OP. But filling a confined space with the hot gasses, CO and others, of an automobile exhaust will leave a very red and unattractive corpse and will likely necessitate a closed casket funeral.
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Old 05-03-2011, 10:54 AM
TriPolar TriPolar is offline
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Originally Posted by lieu View Post
Perhaps if it's delivered by some other means than that described in the OP. But filling a confined space with the hot gasses, CO and others, of an automobile exhaust will leave a very red and unattractive corpse and will likely necessitate a closed casket funeral.
I've seen descriptions of victims of CO poisoning described as 'healthy' looking because of the redness of flesh caused by the CO binding with hemoglobin. Don't know how that would be in the case described of person in a sealed car full of exhaust gases.

It definitely seems to be painless since many people have died in their sleep from low level exposure over time, when they would have survived if they had wakened and left the room.

Suicide by CO poisoning is dangerous to others too. If you fill your garage with exhaust, someone who finds you may succumb to the CO as well. I've heard anecdotes of cases where people died from leaks in CO tanks and emergency personnel were affected as well. Firemen and EMTs are trained to recognize this situation.

There have been mass CO poisonings in West Africa (Cameroon maybe?) where dissolved CO was released in large quantities from mountain lakes. In some cases the victims were described as looking surprisingly healthy. Others, not so much.
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Old 05-03-2011, 11:06 AM
Zsofia Zsofia is offline
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But wouldn't the redness of the skin from the CO binding to the hemoglobin go away when the body is drained and embalmed?
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Old 05-03-2011, 11:35 AM
Machine Elf Machine Elf is offline
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Originally Posted by TriPolar View Post
There have been mass CO poisonings in West Africa (Cameroon maybe?) where dissolved CO was released in large quantities from mountain lakes. In some cases the victims were described as looking surprisingly healthy. Others, not so much.
That was CO2 (carbon dioxide), not CO (carbon monoxide).

Last edited by Machine Elf; 05-03-2011 at 11:36 AM..
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Old 05-03-2011, 11:45 AM
TriPolar TriPolar is offline
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Originally Posted by Machine Elf View Post
That was CO2 (carbon dioxide), not CO (carbon monoxide).
Yes, you are right, I should have looked it up before posting that part. I have some other case confused with this because your cite reminded me of the blistering found on many bodies, quite the opposite of healthy looking.
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Old 05-03-2011, 11:46 AM
md2000 md2000 is offline
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Using car exhaust to kill excess stock at puppy mills etc. was considered a convenient and less cruel method than drowning them. Used to hear about it all the time, many years ago, from the ASPCA types.

Parking the car in the garage and sitting there with the engine running was a traditional suicide method, the risk being that in the "good old days" the poor isolation between garage and house often meant that you took the rest of the sleeping family with you. IIRC, one of the "Rabbi" mystery novels revolved around this point - basically, the fact that someone turned off the headlights in the garage and wiped the light switch clean determined it was murder, not suicide.

I suppose suicide by car is more likely to happen in a country where everyone owns a car. It's hard to commit suicide from cookstove since normally it probably gives off CO2 moreso than CO, so to kill yourself you need a well-sealed room and a faulty cookstove. If you try to kill yourself by CO2, odds are the fire will die before you starve for oxygen.

(CO2 will just mean not enough oxygen so death requires high levels of CO2 and low levels of oxygen (CO2 levels have other side effects), while CO will bind to hemoglobin like oxygen and pevent you from getting oxygen - so death is quicker and more direct.

Last edited by md2000; 05-03-2011 at 11:47 AM..
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Old 05-05-2011, 08:59 AM
eightysix eightysix is offline
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As others have said, CO suicide by car exhaust is not as quick and reliable as it was in the past due to catalytic converters removing a large amount of CO from the exhaust. But it can still work. Whether or not it's painful, I don't know, but it has always seemed to me that it would not be very pleasant to breath in car exhaust for an extended period of time, until one passes out. How long that could take would vary with the CO content of the exhaust and the general health of the individual. Per my experience with these cases it is fairly common for people to take some other drug/med or alcohol at the same time, so that maybe they pass out from that first.

The exhaust also increases the temperature significantly, and in cases where the blood CO level is relatively low, some theorize that hyperthermia may play a role in the death (as well as the other toxins in the fumes, as was also mentioned). I remember hearing about one guy who had spray paint cans in his car when he died by this method, and the tops were popped - not the spray nozzles, but apparently on the top of these cans there was a mechanism built in to expand the tops when the can gets too hot, to avoid explosion. The pathologist reporting this case quoted a temperature at which that happens, and it was pretty high, but I don't remember the actual value. The heat in turn speeds up decomposition, so the corpses usually do not look what I would call "healthy".

What is becoming more and more common these days is CO poisoning by burning charcoal. This is especially true in Asia, where suicides by this method sharply increased after one case, in Hong Kong, I think, was widely reported with commentary on the method's painlessness. Now, as I understand things, it is one of the most common methods in Asia.
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Old 05-05-2011, 09:07 AM
Machine Elf Machine Elf is offline
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Originally Posted by eightysix View Post
What is becoming more and more common these days is CO poisoning by burning charcoal. This is especially true in Asia, where suicides by this method sharply increased after one case, in Hong Kong, I think, was widely reported with commentary on the method's painlessness. Now, as I understand things, it is one of the most common methods in Asia.
This works pretty well; it's how Brad Delp did himself in.
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  #20  
Old 05-05-2011, 10:45 AM
Raintitan Raintitan is offline
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Many years ago I was carbon monoxide poisoned in a cabin when a gas refrigerator failed. I was laying on the coach nearby reading and basically fell asleep to be found about 12 hours later. A few days in the hospital and all was ok. I don't recall anything unpleasant and can see how someone could accidentally kill themselves.

Thankfully, I didn't suffer from long term effects although I suppose I would be smarter than I am now theoretically.

R
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  #21  
Old 05-05-2011, 12:41 PM
chorpler chorpler is online now
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Originally Posted by TriPolar View Post
Yes, you are right, I should have looked it up before posting that part. I have some other case confused with this because your cite reminded me of the blistering found on many bodies, quite the opposite of healthy looking.
As I recall, according to the Horizon/Nova special about Lake Nyos, that was thought to largely be caused by the victims lying in one position for hours without moving; without tossing and turning like we normally do in sleep, the pressure of your body on the skin against the ground can cause bedsore-type problems, plus blood clots, nerve damage ... bad stuff. It's worse when you suddenly collapse on the ground after being overwhelmed by a cloud of CO2 pouring down from a mountain lake; then you could land awkwardly with your leg or arm crushed under you, or a rock digging into your ribs, or something. Ouch.
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