CO Poisoning in Hotels

Originally published June 24, 2007

HOTELS: No carbon monoxide detectors

Carbon monoxide detectors are not hard to find. They are available in many stores, and a growing number of people are using them in their homes. But if you go looking for one in a hotel room, a new study says, chances are it will not be there. Writing in The American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers said that from 1989 to 2004, they found 68 incidents that affected more than 700 guests, 41 employees and 20 rescue workers. Twenty-seven people died. Even after these episodes, the researchers found, most of the hotels where they took place still did not install the detectors. Federal law requires that hotels install smoke detectors, but it does not require carbon monoxide detectors.


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Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning kills over 200 people every year in the United States. Although inexpensive CO detectors have been available since 1989,
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Deseret Morning News, Thursday, June 07, 2007



Motels lack CO detectors

Most lodging places don’t provide devices, medical expert warns

By Lois M. Collins
Deseret Morning News

People who are staying in hotels, motels and resorts need more than their credit cards and clothing: A hyperbaric medicine expert at LDS Hospital says it’s a good idea to take along a carbon-monoxide detector, as well.

Most lodging doesn’t provide the devices, despite hundreds of injuries and dozens of deaths in the past 15 years related to carbon monoxide.

While hotels and motels are required by federal law to have a smoke detector in each guest room, there’s no such mandate that carbon-monoxide detectors be furnished, said Dr. Lindell K. Weaver, medical director of LDS Hospital’s Hyperbaric Medicine Center and co-author of a study that will be published in the July issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Almost every hotel and motel has sources of carbon monoxide, including boilers, water heaters, furnaces and gas-fired dryers. The researchers found that sometimes carbon monoxide is also dragged into guest rooms from machinery being used outside.

Carbon monoxide is not something a person can detect unaided. It is clear, odorless and colorless. It’s also potentially lethal. The commonly reported symptoms of carbon-monoxide poisoning include nausea, headache, generally not feeling well, fatigue and sometimes abdominal pain, tingling and muscle aches.

Those symptoms are usually felt when the level of carbon monoxide is low. When it’s high enough, the patient is too impaired to feel symptoms and seek help, Weaver said.

To quantify incidents, the researchers combed local news reports, other publications and legal databases, and looked at other data on patients poisoned in lodging. They didn’t count someone as a victim unless that individual was taken to the hospital to be treated, or died. They also did not count what could have been deliberate carbon-monoxide poisonings or poisonings that resulted from fires or related smoke.

In all, they documented 68 incidents with 772 victims from 1989-2004. In those cases, 45 incidents were related to room heating and 15 to tools and small boilers. Five came from outdoor sources.

The researchers found cases where boilers and furnaces had failed over time, he said, producing excess carbon monoxide that the ventilation system failed to clear. And the scientists said that their study under represents the total number of victims because not all incidents are reported to or by the media and not all cases of harm are recognized right away. It can take days and sometimes weeks for aftereffects of carbon-monoxide poisoning to be known.

When Jack Kevorkian was assisting suicides, he sometimes used carbon monoxide because “at pure concentration, it’s lethal in seconds,” Weaver said.

Without treatment, even those who survive experience problems, Weaver said. About half have new depression and anxiety. And without hyperbaric oxygen treatment, he said, half develop difficulty with cognitive thinking, which shows up within about six weeks.

Even with treatment, some people suffer permanent damage, Weaver said, so prevention is the most important tool. And that makes common sense all the more important — don’t run machinery indoors and use carbon-monoxide detectors, which are inexpensive and very portable.

Weaver noted that many of the hotels that were involved in carbon-monoxide incidents have not since installed the devices, which can be placed in individual guest rooms or near the appliances that could emit carbon monoxide.

The Utah Hotel and Lodging Association did not return a call Wednesday afternoon.

So far, six states have enacted laws requiring carbon-monoxide alarms on hotel, motel and resort properties, although no state requires the device in all guest rooms. Vermont requires carbon-monoxide alarms in the hallways outside all sleeping rooms.

The study said that the risk from a one-night stay is small, but the more someone travels, the greater the lifetime-accumulated risk. The risk would “approach zero,” the study said, “with effective carbon-monoxide prevention measures.”

“I don’t think I’m going to get poisoned in a hotel,” Weaver said. “But I carry my carbon-monoxide alarm with me and hope it never goes off.”


CO Experts

19299 Katrina Lane; Eldridge Missouri 65463-9102

Tel: 1-888-443-5377 Fax: 1-888-436-5377

CO Experts
19299 Katrina Lane – Eldridge Missouri 65463-9102
Tel: 1-888-443-5377 Fax: 1-888-436-5377