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USA Today Cover Story: Exposes Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in Hotels

Blog by Olga Korchyga

Almost 200 people were poisoned by a deadly gas known as carbon monoxide (CO) in hotels in the past 3 years in North America.  Recently eight people were killed by CO in the past three 

years, according to USA TODAY.  Hotels and motels rarely have carbon monoxide detectors even in cities where they are required.

Very few states and municipalities require CO alarms in hotels because of a very strong lobbying effort.  Dr. Goldstein, former President of the Carbon Monoxide Health and Safety Association, who testified in Chicago in 1992 and 1993 regarding the need for carbon monoxide alarms in homes, hotels, dormitories and other places where people sleep stated, “the hotel industry opposed us at every step”. 

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) have stated that there should be a CO alarm close to every bed. Please see NFPA 720, the 2012 edition, which states you must have 75 dB at every pillow, which means you must put the CO alarm in every bedroom or sleeping area.  If someone closes the bedroom door for any reason a unit in the hall will not meet this NFPA requirement.

Carbon monoxide in any multistory structure can kill many people as it did in the infamous MGM Grand Hotel Fire November 21, 1980 in which there were 85 fatalities and over 700 injuries.  Las Vegas and Nevada have yet to act, requiring carbon monoxide alarms in hotels or homes.

Because CO moves very quickly ahead of smoke it is necessary to have a CO sensor as part of any fire protection system, according to the late LA Fire Captain Gus Degenkold.  He was a pioneer, working with Dr. Goldstein, to write the first building code requirement for CO alarms in the late 1980s and early 1990s. At the time these codes were rejected partly because of opposition from the Hotel and Apartment industries.  The city of Chicago was first to pass a CO alarm requirement and has maintained its leadership in fire and safety ever since the great fire burned down Chicago.

The American Hotel & Lodging Association compiles statistic on their members, which does not include the small bed and breakfast facilities and tourist facilities with less than 15 rooms.  Dr. Mark K. Goldstein estimates that there are well over 5 million rooms in North America and over 60,000 hotel, motel and bed and breakfast rooms of various types for rent.

Dr. Goldstein has stated that every room no matter the price should be treated equally when it comes to safety. Lindell Weaver says each of those rooms should be equipped with alarms to alert guests and hotel managers if gas levels are dangerously high.

USATODAY exposed the fact that the major hotel chains could not identify any specific hotels with CO alarms.  Most didn't respond, and none named a single hotel with CO alarms.  Dr. Goldstein, states it time for ACTION.  Hotels should start putting in CO alarms in every room to protect occupants from the dangers of CO poisoning. 

Click the USA Today Icon to read the original article ‘Hotel guests face carbon monoxide risk’ by Gary Stoller.