Lethal carbon monoxide toxicity in a concrete shower unit

Abstract

A 47-year-old previously-well woman was found dead on the floor of a shower cubicle on a property in rural South Australia. The impression of the attending doctor and police was of collapse due to natural disease. Although there was significant stenosing coronary artery atherosclerosis found at autopsy, cherry pink discoloration of tissues prompted measurement of the blood carboxyhemoglobin level which was found to be 55%. The source of the gas was a poorly-maintained hot water heater that was mounted on the inside wall of the shower. Construction of the shower using an impermeable concrete rain water tank had caused gas accumulation when the water heater malfunctioned. Had lethal carbon monoxide exposure not been identified others using the same shower unit would also have been at risk.

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Correspondence to Roger W. Byard.

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This paper was approved by Forensic Science SA.

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Heath, K., Byard, R.W. Lethal carbon monoxide toxicity in a concrete shower unit. Forensic Sci Med Pathol 15, 133–135 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12024-018-9990-x

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Keywords

  • Carbon monoxide
  • Asphyxia
  • Shower
  • Gas water heater
  • Malfunction