Journal Published Online: 01 July 1998
Volume 43, Issue 4

Automobile Exhaust as a Means of Suicide: An Experimental Study with a Proposed Model



Experiments were conducted to investigate the concentration of carbon monoxide (CO) in a car cabin under suicide attempts with different vehicles and different start situations, and a mathematical model describing the concentration of CO in the cabin was constructed. Three cars were set up to donate the exhaust. The first vehicle didn't have any catalyst, the second one was equipped with a malfunctioning three-way catalyst, and the third car was equipped with a well-functioning three-way catalyst. The three different starting situations were cold, tepid and warm engine start, respectively. Measurements of the CO concentrations were made in both the cabin and in the exhaust pipe.

Lethal concentrations were measured in the cabin using all three vehicles as the donor car, including the vehicle with the well-functioning catalyst.

The model results in most cases gave a good prediction of the CO concentration in the cabin.

Four case studies of cars used for suicides were described. In each case measurements of CO were made in both the cabin and the exhaust under different starting conditions, and the mathematical model was tested on these cases. In most cases the model predictions were good.

Author Information

Morgen, C
Technical University of Denmark, Lyngby, Denmark
Schramm, J
Technical University of Denmark, Lyngby, Denmark
Kofoed, P
State Automobile Inspection, Regional Office, Roskilde, Denmark
Steensberg, J
County Public Health Office, Hillerød, Denmark
Theilade, P
Institute of Forensic Medicine, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
Pages: 10
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Stock #: JFS14314J
ISSN: 0022-1198
DOI: 10.1520/JFS14314J