Four Cases of Sudden Death in a Silo

  • Hayhurst, E. R.;
  • Scott, Ernest


The authors claim that this article is the first in the medical literature describing deaths due to carbon dioxide asphyxia in silos. Authors report on the death of four men who entered a silo on Sept. 19, 1914 on the grounds of Athens, Ohio State Hospital. The top of the silage was about six feet below the access door, and the men entered to tamp down new silage that was about to be added. This operation was delayed, but within about five minutes the men inside were not responding to shouts of their coworkers. The men were removed from the silo, but it was not possible to revive them. The authors performed necropsies on the men and found a black fluid condition of the blood, an absence of clots, and marked cyanosis of the lungs, mucus membranes of the tracheae and bronchi. The authors performed a number of tests on the silo in which the deaths had occurred. They also sampled the gas and sent it for analysis for carbon dioxide, oxygen and nitrogen (tests for carbon monoxide, ammonia, hydrocyanic acid, or methane were not available). Carbon dioxide was found at 38% in a layer of gas extending up to about 18 inches above the silage. This gas is due to the continued respiration of freshly cut silage which rapidly absorbs any available oxygen. Although the high concentration of carbon dioxide is dangerous to workers, it has an important preservative effect on the stored grain. The authors describe simple precautions which could remove or dilute this concentrated carbon dioxide and prevent deaths of this kind. Similar dangers exist among vintners, distillers, brewers, yeast makers, in the holds of grain vessels, peat pits, and grain bins

Abstract prepared by C.M. Brown.


JOURNAL: JAMA. 1914; 63(18): 1570-1572. Note: Journal of the American Medical Association. JAMA.

NLOM ID#: No ID #.

This document was extracted from the CDC-NIOSH Epidemiology of Farm Related Injuries: Bibliography With Abstracts, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

We are unable to supply copies of the full report cited in this entry. Readers are advised to use the following sources:
  • Author or publisher: articles are frequently available from the author or publisher.
  • Medical or other research libraries: these facilities often have the material on hand or know where it can be obtained. If available, each journal entry includes the appropriate National Library of Medicine unique identification number to aid in interlibrary loan requests.
  • Government: some U.S. Government-sponsored research reports, including ones out-of print, are available from the National Technical Information Service, U.S. Department of Commerce.

Disclaimer and Reproduction Information: Information in NASD does not represent NIOSH policy. Information included in NASD appears by permission of the author and/or copyright holder. More