The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced that it had taken an interim step toward prompting the recall, more than a year after the agency began investigating odors and exhaust leaks in the vehicles.
NHTSA said that it has upgraded the investigation to an “engineering analysis” after receiving at least 2,719 consumer complaints regarding Ford Explorers.
At least 3 crashes and 41 injuries have been potentially linked to the vehicles since July 1, 2016, the agency found. Complaints included reports of nausea, headaches and loss of consciousness, all of all which are symptoms of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.
While NHTSA has been unable to determine how carbon monoxide poisoning may have occurred, preliminary tests showed that “CO levels may be elevated in certain driving scenarios.”
A police officer in Auburn, Massachusetts, last month reportedly passed out and crashed while driving a Ford Explorer Police Interceptor. He later tested positive for the noxious gas.
A spokesperson for Ford said it would be “premature to draw conclusions” from the incident, and said a closer analysis revealed a CO concentration of 13 parts per million inside the vehicle’s cabin. The current permissible exposure limit established by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is 50 parts per million.
Ford claimed that aftermarket modifications were responsible for the carbon monoxide exposure in that incident, and the Auburn police later agreed in a statement on Facebook. The company has said that the issue has only been reported in Police Interceptor models of the Explorer, while other incident reports cite exhaust smells.