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Carbon Monoxide in Hotels

At a prison in Pennsylvania. At a school in Atlanta. At homes from Southern California to Maine. Even in recreational vehicles and cars. Carbon monoxide poisoning leads to serious injury or death.  No indoor location is safe from the risks.

Brain injuries are often the result of such poisoning as the gas deprives the body of oxygen. The gas is colorless and odorless so victims are often overcome by the fumes without warning. While people do suddenly collapse, feel nausea or call for help before it’s too late, many times the symptoms occur more subtly and may take time to present. When moderate levels of the poison are in the air, a person may breathe them in on a daily basis without noticing side effects until brain damage, heart problems, respiratory issues or other complications arise. The slow suffocation can have massive consequences.

There seems to be no dwelling or region of the country where this problem does not persist. It is particularly acute in the winter when we burn more fossil fuels in our furnaces and boilers. Keeping our homes warm, our schools comfortable, and our businesses welcoming is part of our daily lives. Even as we operate our cars or sleep in our RVs, the risk does not dissipate.  A Detroit publication reports that a Michigan man was recently awarded a $2 million settlement after he suffered permanent brain damage from a carbon monoxide leak in an RV he was occupying.

According to a recent study by USA TODAY, we should not take that safety for granted. Over the last three years they found that 8 people have died and more than 170 have been hospitalized after suffering carbon monoxide poisoning as hotel guests. Even states that require carbon monoxide monitors in homes do not necessarily require hotels to have them.

In their analysis of more than 1,000 news accounts and interviews with emergency responders, USA TODAY found 30 instances from 2010 through Nov. 8 of 2012 in which public safety officials found troubling levels of the gas in hotels. In that time period, over 1,300 people were evacuated from their rooms for the risks involved with this odorless and colorless gas.

While the instances of a carbon monoxide leak are quite low compared to the instances of a car accident, the risk is still significant. When a leak occurs in an individual home, several people may be injured or killed. If an incident on a similar scale happens in a hotel, dozens of people could be killed. While the risk may seem low, many experts believe that the cost of a carbon monoxide detector in a hotel room would be well worth the investment. For those who have lived through the experience, no doubt they would concur.