poison silo gas

Asked January 9, 2020, 2:32 PM EST

I have never lived on a farm.

Recently (2019) a number of people died or became sick here in MN from silo gas (it happens many other states also). I am familiar with "personal gas masks", what else is available? Why does this problem continue to happen?


Gary Zweig

Ramsey County Minnesota

1 Response

Thank you for the great question! There are many variables that go into these kinds of accidents and we, as the general public, don't know the details as to what all happened, the events leading up to it, or even the scene in which it occurred. And that's OK, we don't need to know. We can make educated guesses but every body is different in how it reacts to the different gases produced during silage/forage fermentation. Some bodies may have a higher tolerance than others.

Here is an awesome article and video that explains silo gas (nitrogen dioxide), how its made, effects, etc. https://extension.psu.edu/silo-gases-the-hidden-danger

There are measures that can be taken to before entering the silo to help ventilate the silo, as well as, respirators that can be used to help temporarily block out the gases. This is a fantastic article on the different types of respirators and in which situations they can be effective in. https://extension.psu.edu/farm-respiratory-protection

As much as it is recommended, ultimately, it is that person's decision to take the necessary precautions to prevent these types of accidents or really any type of farm accident. Please understand that there are some farm accidents that cannot be avoided, for whatever reason, but most can be if the time is taken to ensure the safety of all. Also, there are situations where all safety precautions are in place and accidents still happen. But some simple decisions can easily save lives or limbs such as walking around the tractor instead of stepping over the running PTO (power take off) shaft or don't enter a grain bin without a safety harness on and a second person on the ground. These types of precautions don't take much time but that person makes the decision on how they are going to go about their task and sometimes they choose a "shortcut" and that's when bad things can happen. Farm accidents are no fun and we, as educators and ag businesses, do our best to help educate and build safety products for farmers to help reduce the incidence of accidents. But the person still has to choose to use what's available whether it's knowledge or a safety precaution product.