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The Dangers of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in Hotel Rooms – Nov. 20, 2012

There are close to 5 million rooms available in hotels, motels and bed and breakfasts around America, but few with carbon monoxide detectors, according to an analysis published by USA Today this past week.

According to the article, eight people have been killed and at least one hundred seventy have been treated in carbon monoxide poisoning incidents related to hotels in the past three years. The analysis also disclosed that in reviewing state and local laws and ordinances, few localities require guest rooms to be equipped with carbon monoxide alarms. This is in contrast to the recommendation by the National Fire Protection Association that carbon monoxide alarms should be near the bedrooms of every residence.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless, poisonous gas resulting from the incomplete burning of natural gas.  An example of how this may occur in hotels happened last January at a Holiday Inn Express in South Charleston, West Virginia, when carbon monoxide leaked into the hotel from a swimming pool heater, killing a 44 year old man from Rhode Island.   Hotel staff were reportedly aware of issues with the swimming pool ten days prior to the tragedy.

Carbon monoxide is harmful when inhaled because it displaces oxygen in the blood and deprives the heart, brain and other vital organs of the oxygen they need to function.  Large amounts of CO can overcome you within minutes, causing a loss of consciousness and suffocation.  Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include tightness in the chest, headache, fatigue, dizziness, drowsiness or nausea.

The USA Today analysis studied more than 1000 news accounts of hotel incidents, along with fire department interviews, and found 30 instances from 2010 to date involving high levels of CO gas in hotels.

Perhaps the drafting of model legislation and guidelines for local governmental adoption is in order.

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