Federal regulators are looking into concerns that drivers and passengers in certain models of Ford Explorer SUVs may face a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, following allegations raised in a class action lawsuit filed earlier this month.
While the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has said that it is exploring all available data on carbon monoxide reports linked to 2011-2014 Ford Explorers, no official investigation has yet been announced.
NHTSA officials said they were looking into the problem follow a Ford Explorer class action lawsuit filed by Angela Sanchez-Knutson on June 9, which alleged that design defects in the vehicles may allow exhaust fumes containing deadly carbon monoxide gas to enter the passenger cabin.
The complaint was filed against Ford Motor Company in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, seeking class action status to represent anyone in Florida who owned or leased a model year 2011, 2012 or 2013 Ford Explorer.
According to the lawsuit, Sanchez-Knutson and her daughter still suffer side effects from carbon monoxide exposure caused while riding in their 2013 Ford Explorer.
In December 2012, Ford issued a technical service bulletin, known as TSB 12-12-4, instructing dealers about how to address exhaust problems with the vehicles. However, the lawsuit claims that the company never informed customers about the Ford Explorer carbon monoxide risks and still has not addressed the problems, as Sanchez-Knutson claims that the service bulletin’s instructions do not prevent the toxic fumes from entering the cabin.
To date, the NHTSA has collected at least 20 reports similar to Sanchez-Knutson’s, involving complaints of exhaust fumes coming into the vehicles. Many say that dealerships were unable or unwilling to fix the problem. They were instead told that there was no carbon monoxide flowing into the vehicles. However, Sanchez-Knutson and at least one other person have suffered carbon monoxide poisoning.
Ford officials indicate that they are investigating the problem.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Carbon monoxide is a significantly toxic gas that has no irritating factors that can allow someone to detect its presence, as it is colorless, odorless, and tasteless.
Exposure to carbon monoxide is the leading cause of fatal poisonings in the United States, and injures about 40,000 people each year. Many people who survive exposure are left with permanent brain damage from carbon monoxide gas.
According to the CDC, there are generally more than 430 carbon monoxide deaths each year in the United States, with more than 15,000 people requiring emergency room treatment following exposure to the gas annually.
Poorly designed or clogged vehicle exhaust systems are known to put drivers and passengers at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. While many such cases involve leaving a vehicle running in a closed garage or similar circumstances, when a vehicle’s exhaust is going into the cabin, it can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning and can even cause unconsciousness, brain damage and death.
Even mild symptoms can be catastrophic, as they may interfere with the ability to operate the vehicle, potentially causing an auto accident.
Signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can include:
- Light Headedness
- Flu-Like Symptoms