Wife probably died after inhaling dry ice fumes from ice, coolers: police

Dry ice is known for the creepy-looking vapor it produces, which is usually not dangerous. But in rare cases can be fatal.


In a “terrible accident,” a woman in Washington died of exposure to dry ice vapors, according to news reports.

The 77-year-old woman was found to react in a car with several containers of dry ice on July 27, according to local news outlet KOMO. The car belonged to the woman and her son, an ice cream seller, who kept four coolers of dry ice in the back of the vehicle. The man’s wife had borrowed the car the woman, her mother-in-law a ride home.

But when the man discovers that his wife and mother unconscious in the car, he called 911. The mother probably died by suffocation of the dry ice smoke, and the woman is in critical condition.

“In one way or another … the smoke escapes from the coolers,” said Ed Troyer, a spokesman for the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department.

“At this point, we are just looking to this as [a] horrific accident,” Troyer told local news outlet The News Tribune.

Dry ice is known for the creepy-looking vapor it produces, which is usually not dangerous. But in rare cases can be fatal.

Dry ice is the solid form of carbon dioxide, and has a freezing point of minus 109 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 78 degrees Celsius). As dry ice melts, it undergoes a process of sublimation, in which the solid is directly converted into a gas, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If dry ice is stored in a space without adequate ventilation, it can lead to people inhaling large quantities of the gas CO2 displaces the oxygen in the body, the CDC says. This, in turn, can lead to harmful effects, such as headaches, confusion, disorientation, and death.

Although rare, there are cases when this happened. In 2004, the CDC reported a case of a man who passed out while driving with several bags of dry ice in his car, which he bought to keep food cool in case of a power outage after the Hurricane Ivan. The man’s wife found him unconscious in the car, but he woke up when she opened the door.

In the new case, officials said that there are probably a number of things that went wrong to ensure that the woman’s death. For example, the ice cream seller had recently bought a new car, which probably had a better seal and less ventilation, which are trapped in the smoke, Troyer said. “It was a combination of things that went terribly wrong,” Troyer told KOMO.

Original article on Live Science.

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