A wine specialist died after she was overcome by fumes at an industrial cellar. She lost her balance and fell into a giant vat of wine. Nerea Perez, 25, fell into the vat while she was watching the fermenting process at the cellar in Salas de los Barrios, Spain. An emergency crew rushed to the scene but was unable to save her, reported the Daily Mail (9.30.14).
Carbon dioxide fumes are given off during the wine fermentation process. Carbon dioxide is an odorless and colorless gas that is heavier than air and sinks to the ground. Working in a confined space with high carbon dioxide levels and low oxygen can cause death by suffocation. This is one of the most serious occupational risks faced by workers in wine production. Avoidable fatalities have occurred a number of times because appropriate safety measures and procedures either were ignored or not in place.
Confined spaces are defined as enclosed or partially enclosed areas with restrictive means of entry. In the wine industry these include storage and fermentation tanks.
At higher concentrations carbon dioxide can be directly toxic to central nervous system function, producing narcosis. Lack of oxygen can also result in brain hypoxemia. Mild symptoms of oxygen deprivation include temporary memory loss, reduced ability to make body movements, attention deficit and impaired decision making ability. Severe symptoms include seizures, coma and brain death. Breathing carbon dioxide at concentrations greater than 10% can produce unconsciousness in less than 1 minute and, failing rescue, death, said an article in the British Columbia Medical Journal (BCMJ).
The Daily Mail story cited is “Woman dies after falling into giant vat of wine at industrial cellar when she is overcome by fumes and loses her balance.”