The National Safety Council and Consumer Alert Now want to alert you on the dangers of carbon monoxide- the invisible killer. This dangerous gas is poisoning people due to the negligence of product manufacturers, landlords, and employers. This colorless, odorless, poisonous gas reduces the oxygen delivered to your body and can seriously impair your health or kill you in minutes.
The Invisible Killer- Carbon Monoxide
Carbon monoxide often goes undetected as it has no odor or any color, so it is able to strike its victims without warning. There are more than 400 people in the United States who are killed by unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning each year. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) reports there are more than 20,000 emergency room visits due to this poisoning. They also say there are more than 40,000 others who require hospitalization from carbon monoxide.
Carbon monoxide is produced by burning fuel in small engines, cars, trucks, grills, lanterns, fireplaces, furnaces, portable generators, and gas ranges. If the gas from these products builds up in an enclosed space, humans and animals who breathe it in will be poisoned. Ventilation does not always prevent safety from exposure to this deadly gas.
How to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Almost everyone is at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning. Infants, those with cardiac disease, anemia patients, the elderly, and anyone with breathing problems are more at risk for serious illness or death, but this dangerous gas does not discriminate.
Winters are the most dangerous times as during the cooler weather, people begin using their heating systems or warm up their cars in the garage before driving. The winter months are when everyone should take extra precautions against carbon monoxide poisoning.
The National Safety Council suggests everyone install a battery-operated or battery-backup carbon monoxide detector near each separate sleeping area of the house. The batteries in these devices should be checked and changed at least twice a year, and you should replace the entire device every five years.
There are other tips to help keep you, your family, and all loved ones safe from the possibility of being poisoned:
- A chemical heater which is portable and flameless should never be used inside
- Do not use your gas oven as an optional heating source for your home
- Do not start your vehicle and leave it running in your garage if it is attached to your home. This rule applies even if you leave the garage door open. If your garage is detached, the door should be left open to allow fresh air in if you start the vehicle before driving.
- Every year, you should have a professional service your water heater, furnace, and other coal or gas-burning appliances
- Every year you should have your chimney checked and cleaned, and ensure your fireplace damper is open prior to lighting a fire
- Do not use a generator inside of your home, garage, or basement if it is less than twenty feet from a window, vent, or door. Levels of carbon monoxide can become lethal in a matter of minutes.
What are the Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?
The symptoms from carbon monoxide poisoning will vary depending on the level of exposure you have had from the gas. When symptoms are mild, many people mistake them as signs of the flu. The United States Fire Administration lists these symptoms as what to watch for from possible carbon monoxide poisoning:
- Shortness of breath
If the levels of carbon monoxide are high, you will experience:
- Mental confusion
- Loss of consciousness
- Loss of muscular coordination
If you are anywhere in the vicinity of a product that produces carbon monoxide and begins to experience any of these symptoms, you need to get outside and breath in fresh air immediately. It takes only minutes for you to lose consciousness and die.
If you have installed a carbon monoxide alarm, and it sounds, do not try to find the source that has set it off- you should immediately move outside to fresh air. Call your emergency services, which have trained staff to come and locate the source of leaking gas.
When Carbon Monoxide Poisoning is Due to Landlord Negligence
Landlords are responsible for installing carbon monoxide detectors in their rental properties, and they are also responsible for maintaining these devices. If landlords do not follow the laws pertaining to this safety measure, they can be held legally accountable should a carbon monoxide poisoning occur.
Rental properties typically contain at least one appliance or fixture that is capable of emitting carbon monoxide. These include water heaters, gas stoves, heating systems, or chimneys. Carbon monoxide can accumulate in these fixtures to unsafe levels if they are not maintained and adequately ventilated.
Even if your rental property does not contain a source for carbon monoxide, you are still susceptible to nearby sources. Nearby sources include idling vehicles parked outside, gas grills used by a neighbor, and even gas-powered lawn mowers. Another danger is garages without proper ventilation. All of these sources can threaten your breathing space, so you need a detector in case the levels entering your home become a threat to your health.
Landlords should be proactive in preventing carbon monoxide poisoning by installing carbon monoxide detectors in all their properties. Most state and local laws mandate these devices, so landlords may not have the choice when it comes to putting them in all rentals. There may even be state or local guidelines to follow as to which type of detector is necessary and how many are required per size of the living area in the building.
Courts do not typically find a landlord responsible when a tenant is injured on the rental property. It has to be proven that the landlord’s actions were negligent. Poisoning by carbon monoxide is the same, and not all cases will become the landlord’s liability. There are situations where a landlord will be held accountable for poisoning by carbon monoxide:
- If your landlord has violated safety and health codes, and you are exposed to serious levels of carbon monoxide, you can hold them responsible. Cities and states almost always dictate the minimum standards for safety and health standards for rental properties. They may stipulate certain types of ventilation be used for gas stoves, or how maintenance is required for fireplaces in rental units or any other number of safety measures for possible sources of carbon monoxide.
If a code is in place to prevent carbon monoxide or similar types of poisoning, the landlord is negligent under the law if they have not followed those codes.
- If your landlord did not install the proper carbon monoxide detector, and you are injured, or a death occurs due to poisoning, the landlord can be held accountable. Cities and states require the installation of carbon monoxide detectors in rental properties. These same laws also require they maintain the detectors and ensure they are in working order. There are statues in some states which explicitly state, violators of this law are liable for the victim's injuries without the victim having to prove carelessness. By breaking the law, the landlord has established their negligence.
- If a landlord promises to provide and maintain a carbon monoxide detector but fails to do so, a court could find them responsible for any injuries or deaths that occur due to poisoning.
- Except for the State of Alabama, all other states recognize an implied warranty of habitability regarding rental properties. This implied warranty of habitability is a promise on behalf of the landlord, which judges and courts silently wrote into residential leases, requiring landlords to meet basic safety and health standards. If a renter is poisoned by carbon monoxide because of the landlord’s failure to provide basic safety and health standards, they can be held accountable in the courts.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Due to Negligence in Hotel or Restaurant
Generators, heaters, and furnaces are the most common cause of carbon monoxide poisonings. These poisonings can happen in both residential and commercial properties, such as hotels or restaurants. When there is improper ventilation, leaks in vents or exhaust pipes, carbon monoxide becomes present and can become dangerous. One example is if a hotel pool pump is placed near an air supply. It will cause carbon monoxide to be recycled into the hotel’s air supply.
Preventing carbon monoxide poisonings in commercial buildings such as restaurants and hotels requires an annual check of all fuel-burning equipment. There should also be detectors installed for carbon monoxide gases.
Proving carbon monoxide poisoning negligence is not always simple. These cases can become complex as they can involve different theories against different parties. Multiple parties can be held responsible, including the businesses where the incident occurred. Parties can include the manufacturers of machinery or equipment, architectural firms, and others.
A lawsuit for carbon monoxide poisoning can involve a premises liability claim against a business, defective product claim, a product manufacturer, or a negligence claim against an outside contractor. Examples can include a hotel maintenance company that did not perform their semi-annual inspections, or a leak in an exhaust pipe went unnoticed. These failures can result in the death of hotel guests if carbon monoxide reaches a lethal level.
Since 2010, there have been eight deaths and more than two-hundred carbon monoxide poisonings in the hotel industry. In North Carolina, three people died when a corroded pool heater pipe caused carbon monoxide to leak into a nearby hotel room. There were also two separate incidents involving a young boy and an elderly couple who died as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning in a hotel in 2013.
The North Carolina incident is an example of numerous responsible parties. The owner of the hotel was arrested in connection with the event; however, they implicated their heating company. The heating company had been hired to perform work on the pool a year before the incident. The hotel owners are claiming it was their negligence, which resulted in the poisoning.
Carbon monoxide poisonings in hotels often occur due to boilers, pool heaters, furnaces, heaters, and other sources that hotel owners have failed to maintain. These are tragic and senseless injuries, and deaths as the solution to this issue are simply installing carbon monoxide detectors to alert guests of danger.
Based on facts regarding the death of an elderly couple, it did not appear that the hotel was liable. The evidence did not show the hotel knew about the dangers before the deaths. If it could have been proven the hotel knew about the corroded exhaust pipe, but did not take proper action, or they did not perform reasonable inspections of the pool heater, then negligence could be proven.
Lawsuits Focused on Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Lawsuits focused on carbon monoxide poisoning are often directed at the owners of the buildings and the contractors who were responsible for installing appliances. A person or entity who owns the building where an incident occurred, or the company responsible for installing and maintaining the gas burning appliances can be found liable if a poisoning occurs.
A lawsuit was filed against Days Inn for carbon monoxide poisoning, and it included two different heating, ventilating, and air conditioning contractors. The three companies all paid substantial sums to avoid their case going to trial. Carbon monoxide poisoning does not happen without fault. It is an odorless, invisible gas; however, there are almost always warnings that happen for someone to have taken precautions against the leak or exposure.
Lawsuits for Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Focus on Pathways
Most of the fuel-burning appliances in a commercial building are kept in a boiler room. These rooms are generally a contained environment, which includes fire doors that are to be closed at all times. When customers get poisoned, the question becomes, how did the dangerous gas get to where they were.
In the case of the Days Inn poisoning, a chimney adjacent to the hotel room was found to contain a leak. Other times a poor design in appliance setups creates carbon monoxide to be dumped into fresh air supplies of the HVAC system. There are situations where the gas followed the path of least resistance and got to an area where people were breathing it in through the air. These are examples of ‘pathways’ for carbon monoxide.
The flow of gases is based on two factors:
- Hot air rises
- All airflow will go to the source of suction
If a building has a positive or negative pressure, it will force the poisonous gas to the source of suction as if it were a large vacuum cleaner.
When the gases reach where there are people, everyone in the room will breathe in carbon monoxide, and it will get into their bloodstream at predictable rates. Anyone exposed to carbon monoxide should go to the ER to determine the level of COHb in their blood. The level of COHb in a person’s blood system will tell the hospital personal how severe the poisoning has been.
Children are more vulnerable to this gas, yet there COHb levels will drop twice as fast as those of an adult. This drop is due to children breathing faster than adults. If anyone has reached a COHb level of 10, they have been put at risk for serious long-term health problems. Some of these health conditions can include brain damage.
Lawsuits Against Vehicle Manufacture for Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Police officers have filed several lawsuits against the Ford Automobile Manufacturer for the inhalation of carbon monoxide in their Ford Interceptor. In 2015, an officer lost consciousness while he was operating his vehicle and went across two lanes of oncoming traffic, crashing the car into a tree. The officer filed a lawsuit against the Ford Company for a defect found that contributed to carbon monoxide to leak into the inhalation system.
In Texas, a police department had to remove dozens of their Interceptors from operation when the carbon monoxide detectors indicated there were high levels of the poisonous gas in them. One of the officers in Austin, nearly crashed into another vehicle when he became overwhelmed by the high levels of carbon monoxide in his car.
Lawsuits were filed claiming that Ford’s design of the bumpers and tailpipes in this model allowed for exhaust fumes to build up in the exterior and interior panels of the cars. The lawsuit also alleges there were faulty rear air extractors and a drain valve that did not allow the fumes to dissipate outside of the passenger interior.
The exhaust fumes in these cars became trapped in the panels, seams, and joints, which resulted in multiple carbon monoxide poisonings. Both plaintiffs and officers installed carbon monoxide detectors in their vehicles after they detected fumes in the car’s interior. It was also confirmed as carbon monoxide poisoning by the hospital staff who treated the injured officer when he crashed into the tree.
Carbon Monoxide Detectors Named as ‘Don’t Buy’ Risks
In a Consumer Report’s test conducted on carbon monoxide detectors, there have been three models that failed their critical performance test. These detectors have been rated as ‘Don’t Buy,’ as a result of those tests:
- GoChange 882 LCD Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Alarm
- NetBoat WB_H3110061 Portable Gas CO Poisoning Monitor
- Foho YJ-806 LCD Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Alarm
A carbon monoxide detector is a critical line of defense against poisoning from this dangerous gas; they must work correctly. While there have been no reported deaths linked to these three models of detectors, it is crucial that consumers do not buy and rely on their performance.
Consumer Reports tests the detectors for their sensitivity at different levels of concentration of carbon monoxide. Even a low concentration of this dangerous gas exposure can cause serious health risks if the exposure is over a long period of time.
Two of these three detectors did not send an alarm when exposed to the gas at a concentration of 100 parts per million. A correctly performing detector should sound within 40 to 165 minutes at this level of exposure. The GoChange detector did not sound an alarm when exposed to concentrations of 400 parts per million. At this level, the sensor should have sounded within four to fifteen minutes.
The NetBoat model sounded an alarm at the higher levels but did so after thirty seconds instead of the recommended four to fifteen minutes, which poses the risk of the consumer removing the detector. When models sound to quickly, it is likely the consumer will remove the batteries from the unit to stop the annoying alarm. This situation makes the detector a hazard as it leaves people unprotected in a dangerous situation.
At the higher levels of concentration, the Foho model also sounded too quickly. It averaged fifteen minutes at the lower concentration and a minute-and-a-half at the higher concentration. All three of these models have been proven to work incorrectly and have been placed on the ‘Don’t Buy-Risk’ list. Consumer Reports has notified the Consumer Product Safety Commission of their findings.
Ebay was selling the GoChange Carbon Monoxide Alarm, and after being alerted of CR’s findings, they report it has been removed from their listings. Amazon was selling the NetBoat Carbon Monoxide Alarm as well as the Foho model. They also have removed these models from their listings and urge any who purchased them prior to the test, to return them under the terms of their return policy.
Consumer Reports warns consumers that while these two markets have removed the sale of these models from their list, other markets may still be offering them for sale. If you have purchased a carbon monoxide detector that does not contain a certification proving it passed UL standard requirements, it should be replaced.
Find a Mass Tort Against Carbon Monoxide Near Me
If you believe you or someone you love has suffered injuries or died as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning call Consumer Alert Now at 800-511-0747. We have a knowledgeable staff ready to talk to you about your case and help you find the legal representation you deserve to find compensation.