Klobuchar Introduces Legislation to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Deaths

Thursday, November 13th, 2008 at 6:05 am

Washington, D.C. – In the midst of Minnesota’s Winter Hazard Awareness Week, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar held a news conference to announce new federal legislation that would require the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to enforce stronger standards to protect people against the deadly dangers of carbon monoxide.

Klobuchar serves on the Senate Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Commission.

“When someone dies from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning, it’s not just a private tragedy,” said Klobuchar. “It’s a public tragedy, too. Because we know that, so often, it could have been prevented with better safeguards.”

Known as “the silent killer,” carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless, poisonous gas. The deadly fumes result from inefficient combustion, and they can originate from family furnaces, water heaters or gas stoves. The gas can be trapped inside by a blocked chimney or flue. Other threats include running a car engine in an attached garage, burning charcoal in the house or operating a gas-powered generator in a confined space.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about 500 people die each year in America due to accidental CO poisoning. Another 15,000 people end up in the emergency room. Children are especially vulnerable. According to the CDC, 73 Minnesotans died of accidental CO poisoning between 1999 and 2004.

Although CO poisoning can happen anytime most accidents happen during the winter months, mainly due to an increased use of fuel-burning appliances.

Klobuchar was joined by Cheryl Burt, whose two sons (ages 16 months and 4 years) died from CO poisoning due to a malfunctioning furnace. Burt, her oldest son and her husband were also poisoned. The incident happened in January 1996 at the family’s home in Kimball, near St. Cloud. Burt now lives in Rochester.

“Don’t wait until it’s too late to protect your family from the danger of CO,” said Burt. “Installing CO alarms now could save your own life, or the life of someone you love.”

Along with Senator Bill Nelson of Florida, Klobuchar has introduced the “Residential Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act.” It includes two key provisions:

First, it would strengthen the safety standards for carbon monoxide alarms. Currently, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has voluntary standards, set by Underwriters Laboratories. The legislation would make these safety standards mandatory for all carbon monoxide alarms sold in the U.S.

Second, the legislation would require that every portable gas-powered generator sold in the U.S be equipped with safety features, such as a built-in carbon monoxide alarm and an automatic shut-off. It would also require prominent warning labels.

In recent years, CO deaths caused by generators have been on the increase. Earlier this fall, two men and a boy died in a Minnesota home from CO poisoning due to the use of a portable generator.

Minnesota has a new state law that requires all homes to have working CO alarms. Experts recommend installing them on each floor and near sleeping areas. A recent survey found that half of homes nationwide do not have CO alarms.

Kidde, a leading manufacturer of CO alarms, has partnered with Safe Kids Minnesota and the State Fire Marshal’s Office to distribute 1,000 CO alarms through local fire departments to Minnesota residents.

Besides Klobuchar and Burt, other participants in the news conference included:

– Bob Dahm, Chief Deputy Minnesota State Fire Marshal

– Tim Butler, Saint Paul Fire Chief

– Steve Zaccard, Saint Paul Fire Marshal

– Erin Peterson, Minnesota Safety Council-Safe Kids Minnesota

– Chris Rovenstine, vice president with Kidde, the world’s largest manufacturer of fire safety products, including carbon monoxide alarms

For more information on CO alarms and the Minnesota law, visit www.knowaboutco.com. For information on the “Residential Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act,” visit www.klobuchar.senate.gov

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