North Carolina may pass CO legislation after hotel poisonings

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

ST. CHARLES, Ill.—Several recent deaths caused by carbon monoxide poisoning in a North Carolina hotel room may lead to a law in that state requiring CO detectors in lodging places.

Currently, 40 states have laws mandating the installation of CO devices, but most of those laws pertain to homes and multi-family residences, said David George, director of marketing communications for System Sensor. Based here, that company makes fire detection and notification devices, including carbon monoxide detectors, and keeps track of CO legislation in the United States through an interactive map.

George said only 19 states require CO detectors for occupancies that include hotels, motels, apartment buildings and dormitories.

North Carolina isn’t one of those states. Since 2010, the state has required CO detectors in homes and multi-family dwellings, but doesn’t mandate them in hotels. However, several fatalities two months apart in the same hotel room in Boone, N.C. may change that.

First, an elderly couple died in April in room 225 in the Best Western Plus Blue Ridge Plaza, according to news reports. Then, on June 8, an 11-year-old boy was found dead in the same room.

After the boy’s death, officials subsequently determined that carbon monoxide poisoning caused the death of all three, and the source is believed to have been an improperly installed pool heater beneath the room, according to the Charlotte Observer.

That newspaper recently cited more instances of people sickened by carbon monoxide while staying at other hotels in North Carolina in recent years.

That has prompted some state legislators there to propose a study of whether the state should require hotels to install CO detectors.

N.C. Rep. Becky Carney, D-Mecklenburg, is reportedly one of those pushing for such a study. It’s too late in the legislative session to introduce new bills, so Carney is hoping the CO proposal can be added to an existing omnibus study bill, according to the Charlotte Observer.

Attempts to reach Carney by SSN’s deadline were not successful.

But Carney, who previously sponsored legislation for CO detectors in apartment buildings, told the Charlotte Observer, “I will do what I can to see that the issue is looked at more closely.”

In some states, the use of CO devices becomes mandated when states adopt updated versions of building codes that require them in certain occupancies, according to George. But he said that it’s primarily pressure from lawmakers that has resulted in much of the CO legislation around the country, prompted by tragedies like those in North Carolina.

“You see a tragic incident and then a representative really champions that on behalf of that individual and they even name the law after that individual,” George said. “We’ve seen that time and time again in the 40 states that have some type of codes and standards for carbon monoxide.”