Senate Considers CO Bill
January 29, 2010
Every year, carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning kills approximately 500 Americans and hospitalizes
about 4,000. Roughly 73 percent of CO exposures causing these cases occur in homes. Sources
of CO include house fires, faulty furnaces, heaters, wood-burning stoves, internal combustion
vehicle exhaust, electrical generators, propane-fueled equipment such as portable stoves, and
gasoline-powered tools such as lawnmowers.
In recent years, postdisaster deaths from CO poisoning have raised particular concerns in the
emergency management community. Data have shown that on average, 170 people die every
year as a result of CO poisoning associated with the kinds of portable generators and charcoal
grills people use inside the home or enclosed garages after power outages. Municipal fire
departments respond to an estimated 60,000 nonfire CO incidents annually.
These and other statistics about this “silent killer” were presented by Kelvin J. Cochran, who
heads the United States Fire Administration at the Department of Homeland Security, and other
witnesses at a hearing on CO poisoning convened by the Senate Committee on Commerce,
Science, and Transportation.
CO, which is colorless, odorless, and tasteless, is indeed a stealthy menace, but the witnesses
agreed that installation of carbon monoxide alarms on every level of every home would go a
long way toward reducing casualties.
Support was also expressed in the meeting for the Residential Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Prevention Act (S. 1216), which would amend the Consumer Product Safety Act to require that
carbon monoxide alarms meet a mandatory consumer product safety standard. The bill would
also require the Consumer Products Safety Commission to establish a grant program to provide
assistance to states to carry out CO alarm programs.
Currently, Minnesota, Illinois, Alaska, Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, and Georgia have all
passed legislation to address CO poisoning in family homes by requiring CO alarms within
10 or 15 feet of any bedroom.
S. 1216 is available at http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=s111-1216
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