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Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon Monoxide Dangers in Apartments

Carbon monoxide — also called the silent killer — is a gas that emanates from any motor that burns carbon fuels and has no odor and no color; thus, its inability to easily be detected. People who are exposed to enough carbon monoxide in an enclosed space can easily suffer serious injuries and even death. This danger is very prevalent in apartment complexes and condominiums, which tend to be smaller than many houses, allowing less amounts of the gas to be dangerous and deadly.

5 Facts About Carbon Monoxide:

1. Anything that uses combustion fumes emits carbon monoxide, such as vehicles, small gasoline engines, burning charcoal or wood, stoves, some water heaters and heating systems. The gas is a byproduct of the combustion that must be safely vented.

2. When carbon monoxide is inhaled, the gas binds to hemoglobin in red blood cells and prevents the cells from carrying oxygen. The more exposure to the gas a person experiences the more the cells fill with carbon monoxide, which could easily kill a person in a short period of time.

3. The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are the following:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Chest pains
  • Confusion

4. If there is carbon monoxide poisoning, the first and most important thing to do is to get outside where there is fresh air. The second thing to do is to seek medical treatment immediately.

5. To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, every home, apartment, and any place where people sleep should have a carbon monoxide detector. Also, having adequate ventilation in a living space can prevent injury or even death.

Carbon Monoxide Statistics:

  • Every year, approximately 50,000 people require medical treatment from carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Last year, 430 people died from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • 36 percent of those deaths occurred in December, January and February.
  • Accidental, non-fire related poisoning accounts for over $1.3 billion annually in societal costs.
  • Only about half of the states require landlords to install carbon monoxide detectors.

Public Housing and Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) helps millions of America’s working poor to afford housing. There are over two million people currently living in publicly subsidized housing. Forty percent of public housing units are housed with someone who is 65 years old or older, and of those, 88 percent of them live alone. There, carbon monoxide poisoning is an issue.

There has been a growing concern about carbon monoxide poisoning in subsidized housing. Since 2003, 13 deaths caused by carbon monoxide poisoning occurred in HUD subsidized housing. The problem is that HUD does not require owners of apartment complexes to install carbon monoxide detectors in apartments subsidized by HUD.

Only recently HUD announced that it will begin requiring federal inspectors to check public housing apartments for carbon monoxide detectors — but the agency will not penalize landlords for broken or missing detectors. Under the new requirements, which took effect April 1, 2019, federal inspectors must check for the detectors in any public housing units that contain fuel-fired appliances or have an attached garage, and determine if they are working.

Landlord Liability

Landlords can be held responsible for carbon monoxide poisoning and deaths. If the landlord was negligent in maintaining a furnace, pipes or other combustible devices, and that failure caused carbon monoxide to invade an apartment, then the landlord can be held responsible for the injuries and damages that happened. Further, if state or local laws require every apartment to have a working carbon monoxide detector and the landlord fails to supply one, then the landlord can again be held responsible for injuries.

The state of Michigan has passed laws that require carbon monoxide detectors in multi-family buildings and apartment complexes.

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