Klobuchar sponsors bill to require carbon monoxide alarmsby Elizabeth Baier, Minnesota Public Radio
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, DFL-Minn., is co-sponsoring a bill that require regulation of carbon monoxide alarms and portable generators.
St. Paul, Minn. — The bill would require the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to enact safety standards for carbon monoxide (CO) detectors and portable generators, which emit the deadly gas.
Currently, the safety commission follows voluntary safety standards that are set by Underwriters Laboratories, an independent product safety organization.
Klobuchar says many CO detectors on the market are from foreign countries and are not up-to-par. The bill would make these safety standards mandatory for all CO detectors.
It would also require that every portable generator sold in the U.S. be equipped with built-in carbon monoxide detectors, automatic shut-off features and prominent warning labels.
"We do have a number of these alarms that are being brought in from other countries," said Klobuchar. "You saw what happened with the toxic toys, and we think it's very important to have these standards mandatory across the country."
Minnesota Public Radio tried to contact two trade associations for makers of portable generators, but no representatives were reachable.
Carbon monoxide is an odorless and colorless gas. A new Minnesota state law requires all homes in Minnesota to have CO detectors within 10 feet of all sleeping areas.
Experts say often by the time people realize they're suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning, they can't do anything about it, because it's difficult to move.
Rochester resident Cheryl Burt knows this firsthand. Burt says her two young sons might still be alive if she'd had a CO detector in her house 12 years ago.
That's when her 15-month-old son Zachary and 4-week-old son Nicholas died from the fumes produced by an old furnace in her home at the time near St. Cloud. The family did not have a carbon monoxide alarm at the time.
"Had I had an alarm in my home, it would have went off prior to me being so poisoned that I did not know what was going on. I was so poisoned that my son was dying in front of me, and I didn't know it. because my mind was so poisoned...so the alarm is so important," said Burt. Carbon monoxide is produced by the burning of fuels, such as gas, oil, kerosene, wood or charcoal. Dangerous amounts of the gas can build up when fuel is not burned properly, or when heaters aren't properly vented.
The Center for Disease Control reports 73 Minnesotans died of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning between 1999 and 2004.
Most recently, two men and a boy died after being overcome by carbon monoxide in a north Minneapolis home in October.
- All Things Considered, 11/12/2008, 6:20 p.m.