Volume 19, Issue 2 (April 1974)
Two Deaths Caused by a Lack of Oxygen in an Underground Chamber
Asphyxial deaths caused by a gross deficiency of oxygen and associated with elevated levels of carbon dioxide are relatively rare. Most such deaths are industrial accidents. The typical case occurs when an individual descends into a sewer, brewery vat, or mine that has not been ventilated for some time. In some of these cases, especially those occurring in sewers, death may be due to other gases such as methane or hydrogen sulfide. Therefore, for proper interpretation of these deaths, it is essential to specifically identify the gas or gases that caused death. Herein are presented two deaths in an underground chamber caused by a gross deficiency of oxygen and associated with an elevated concentration of carbon dioxide. Both these conditions were the direct result of primitive forms of plant life and funguslike organisms growing in the chamber, consuming the oxygen, and producing carbon dioxide.