Over the last five years, auto safety regulators have received hundreds of complaints of exhaust fumes and carbon monoxide wafting into the cabins of Ford Explorers.
Investigators from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, who began looking into the issue only last year, say they’ve uncovered no medical evidence that motorists have been exposed to elevated levels of the odorless and poisonous gas.
However, the federal regulators haven’t yet seen Steve Simmons’ medical records.
In August, less than two weeks after the Raleigh, N.C., resident bought a 2015 Explorer and began feeling ill, blood tests said that he had carbon monoxide poisoning. “I could feel that something wasn’t right,” he said. “I started feeling lousy. The symptoms were headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, blurred vision.”
Duke Raleigh Hospital said Simmons, 62, had a carbon monoxide level in his blood of 4.6 percent–a high level for a non-smoker like him. “Elevated carbon monoxide above 2 percent in non-smokers strongly supports this diagnosis, which is consistent with lab work and evaluation,” the hospital report said.
According to news reports, police in about a dozen states are concerned about carbon monoxide leaking into the Police Interceptor model of the Explorer. Several officers have reported crashing, saying they passed out. The police department in Austin, Texas, has taken 397 Explorer police vehicles out of service pending a fix, according to Andy Tate, a spokesman for the city.
Ford says it is working with police on the issue. It has theorized that the problem could be that police drill holes to add special equipment. Those holes may not be properly plugged and that could allow fumes to enter.
While some owners of the regular Explorers may complain of an exhaust odor Ford said in a press release that “those instances are unrelated to reports of carbon monoxide described by some police departments.”
Not A Limited Problem
But Simmons says that’s baloney.
“The public needs to be made aware that this is not a problem limited to Ford Police Interceptor models as Ford would have you believe,” said Simmons, a retired project manager for IBM.
Simmons says he filed a complaint on the NHTSA website in August. He was contacted by the agency and told to write a letter and send the documents, which he has yet to do.
But his complaint is far from unique. The agency has about 800 notes, some of them angry, from worried Explorer owners going back to at least 2012. There are reports of occupants suffering nausea and vomiting — often young children seated in the back, where exhaust may be entering the vehicle.
“Toxic exhaust fumes get sucked in the car,” a Miami owner wrote in 2012. “Took the vehicle to the Ford dealer and was told that it has been happening to the Ford Explorer and that Ford Motor Co. knows, but does not know what is causing it.”