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Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

In December 2010, shocking news emerged that five young men, ranging in age from sixteen to nineteen, were killed by carbon monoxide poisoning while in their Florida hotel room. The teens’ hotel room was situated over a closed garage in which a car was left running. The car’s exhaust created a fatal accumulation of carbon monoxide which vented into the hotel room, causing their deaths. Sadly, this tragedy could easily have been prevented. Despite a law requiring them, life-saving carbon monoxide detectors were not found anywhere in the hotel.

Unfortunately, carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is a too common occurrence. Despite being preventable through the use of proper safety equipment and maintenance of CO expellers like automobiles, chimneys, grills, heaters and generators, over 400 people in the United States die a year from carbon monoxide poisoning, and another 20,000 must seek emergency medical care. The teens’ poisoning deaths, for instance, were actually the most recent in the same area among other hotels with above-garage hotel rooms. In 2005, three young girls also lost their lives in a nearby, similar hotel with no working carbon monoxide detectors.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that is undetectable to humans until they begin to feel its effects. Symptoms of poisoning include fatigue, nausea, dizziness, weakness, confusion and headaches. Often, by the time a person begins to feel these symptoms, they are in distress or are too affected to remove themselves to a safer area. Therefore, it is critical that homes, dwellings, and other buildings are fitted with carbon monoxide detectors. In fact, in many areas this is required by law. Owners of buildings without these detectors are not only subject to penalties and fines, they may be prosecuted under the law should injury occur. Additionally, they can be considered liable by victims and their families. Such victims can contact a Chicago personal injury attorney who can assist them in seeking justice for their injuries and loss.

In addition to installing detectors, items that can potentially produce carbon monoxide should be maintained and safely used. As in the above tragedies, it is never safe to allow a car to run in an enclosed space. Even an open garage door may not prevent gas from entering your home. Chimneys should be checked for any blockages or cracks that can allow carbon monoxide to seep into a residence. Similarly, any gas, oil or coal burners used to heat your home or water should be regularly checked for leaks and have adequate venting. Make certain cooking stoves are also properly vented and are not used as a source of heat. Never run a gas or charcoal grill indoors. Especially, do not run a gasoline generator indoors, even in the event of a power outage. Recently, a landlord in Ohio was indicted on four counts of reckless homicide after he ran a gasoline-powered generator inside a tenant’s home as a method of providing power. As a result, a family of four was killed by carbon monoxide poisoning.

When it comes to carbon monoxide, just a few steps can safely secure a home or building. In short, often all it takes is education, a trip to the hardware store, and regular maintenance to save a life from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Brooke Haley marketing associate at Millon & Peskin, Chicago workers compensation attorney that practice in the areas of Civil Litigation, Workers’ Compensation, and Personal Injury. Millon & Peskin is a General Civil Litigation Practice with the goal of representing the interests of injured workers, throughout all applicable Courts within the State of Illinois. For more information, please visit http://www.millonpeskin.com.

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