Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: President Urges Americans To Be Alert To A Senseless Killer

September 23, 1993
Release Number: 93109

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) kicks off "Carbon Monoxide Safety Awareness Week" this Sunday with a comprehensive program designed to educate the public about the dangers of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. As part of the observance of this Week, the President has issued a message encouraging Americans to become more alert to the symptoms and potential dangers of CO poisoning.

In his message, President Clinton said, "(This) information program is a unique initiative to bring information about carbon monoxide poisoning -- its causes, symptoms, prevention, and means of detection -- to millions of Americans...I urge all of our citizens to participate in this lifesaving endeavor."

Carbon monoxide is produced by burning any fuel; therefore, any fuel-burning appliance is a potential source of CO. In 1989 (the latest year for which statistics are available), nearly 300 people died in their homes from CO poisoning associated with residential appliances.

"Carbon monoxide is truly a 'senseless' killer," said Commission Chairman Jacqueline Jones-Smith. "You can't see it, smell it, or taste it, so often people don't know they are being poisoned."

Additionally, the symptoms of CO mimic those of the flu; at low levels, CO poisoning causes headaches, nausea, and drowsiness; at higher levels, it causes vomiting, loss of consciousness, and death.

CPSC hopes to educate citizens about the potential dangers of CO poisoning with a comprehensive public awareness campaign that includes media tours, exhibits, brochures in English and Spanish, posters, public service announcements, videos, newspaper, radio, and television stories.

"The message we're putting out is simple," said Jones- Smith. "First, have your home heating system, including your chimney, inspected annually by a qualified technician. Second, install at least one carbon monoxide detector that meets the requirements of Underwriters Laboratories' standard 2034 in the hall outside the bedrooms. This detector will sound an alarm before the carbon monoxide level in your home becomes hazardous."

On September 15, 1993, Chicago, IL became one of the first cities in the United States to adopt an ordinance requiring CO detectors in all new single-family homes and in existing single- family residences that are being equipped with new oil or gas combustible furnaces. In addition, the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association is requiring CO detectors in motor homes made after September 1, 1993.

"CPSC applauds these actions. We feel these detectors will be as effective in preventing CO poisoning deaths as smoke detectors are in preventing fire deaths," Jones-Smith said.

CPSC is undertaking this program as part of its mission to protect the public from unreasonable risks of injury and death associated with consumer products. The Commission's objective is to reduce the estimated 28.6 million injuries and 21,700 deaths associated each year with the 15,000 different types of consumer products under CPSC's jurisdiction.

EDITORS NOTE: For more information about Carbon Monoxide Safety Awareness Week, as well as publications and videos available, please call (301) 504-7908.