We certainly hope so. News reports this morning are stating that safety officials are calling for legislation requiring the presence of carbon monoxide detectors in schools after seven adults and 42 children became ill at an Atlanta, Georgia elementary school yesterday, prompting a full school evacuation and emergency room care for those affected by the deadly gas.
Carbon Monoxide (CO) is an odorless and tasteless gas produced by inefficient fuel combustion. Indications of carbon monoxide poisoning tend to resemble the flu with symptoms such as nausea, malaise, headache, dizziness and fatigue. If not recognized in a timely manner, toxicity can cause death. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, "The effects of CO exposure can vary greatly from person to person depending on age, overall health and the concentration and length of exposure." The EPA website listed below offers a wealth of information regarding the dangers and prevention of CO poisoning.
Carbon monoxide detectors are not required by law, in most schools, within the United States. Shouldn't they be required by law, or building code, in any public place using fuel as a heating source? What about our hospitals, nursing homes, day-care facilities and workplaces?
According to an Associated Press article Published in the Wall Street Journal, "Twenty-five states have laws requiring carbon-monoxide detectors in certain residential buildings, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Connecticut takes that a step further and requires detectors in all public and nonpublic schools, while Maryland recently enacted a law requiring detectors in newly constructed and remodeled schools, according to Scott Hendrick, program manager with the NCSL."
Since 2009, Maine law has required the presence of carbon monoxide detectors in single, or multi-family dwellings at the point of sale. The law was further amended in 2011, taking effect in August of 2012 requiring the presence of carbon monoxide detectors in B&B's, hotels, and motels upon licensure. An additional amendment, effective the same date, addressed fraternity, sorority and dormitory housing for both public and private schools requiring both battery and hard-wire protection.
Already this year, we have heard of cases of carbon monoxide poisoning in private home situations, and in a state such as ours, with such a dependency on heating fuels, such concern should be at the forefront of our attention as we head into the winter months.
Wood, natural gas, kerosene, propane, and oil can all emit CO, as can equipment powered through the process of internal combustion. Each floor of your home should be equipped with a current (in date) carbon monoxide detector, which is both hard wired and battery powered.
A carbon monoxide detector should be using anytime a solid or liquid fuel is used for heating, cooking, or to power appliances. They should also be used in enclosed spaces, such as boats, and garages where automobiles are repaired or left to run, as well as near generators.
If your alarm sounds, or even if it doesn't and you suspect the presence of carbon monoxide, do not search for the source yourself! Immediately exit the house, and call 911. The fire department and gas company will be called to investigate for you and will advise when it is safe to re-enter the premises.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 20,000 people visit emergency rooms each year from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning.
If you have questions regarding the presence of carbon monoxide detectors in your child's school or daycare; your workplace, or your family member's healthcare facility, we urge you to contact them to inquire about their safety devices and encourage them to initiate a safety plan regarding carbon monoxide if one is not already in place. If you know someone without a detector in his or her home, perhaps we've provided you with the perfect holiday gift idea!