Editorial: Carbon monoxide detectors a must for all hotel rooms
The death of a Rhode Island man at a hotel in South Charleston in 2012 prompted West Virginia to pass legislation requiring hotels to install carbon monoxide detectors.
But an eerily similar tragedy at a North Carolina hotel last week provides an alarming reminder that every state needs to take those steps to protect the traveling public.
In the West Virginia incident, 44-year-old William J. Moran was found dead at the Holiday Inn Express at Corridor G in February 2012. He was part of a construction crew working in the area, and several of his co-workers who were staying at the same hotel also became sick that night.
Investigators traced the accident to a carbon monoxide leak in the hotel’s swimming pool heater, which was located near his room. The deadly, invisible gas is created by combustion, and most problems are caused by improper ventilation of heating systems or engines.
This week, a Best Western hotel in Boone, N.C., had its second death incident in two months — both in the same hotel room. A couple from Longview, Wash., were found dead in the room on April 16. Then Saturday, an 11-year-old boy died in the room, and his mother had to be rushed to the hospital, where she survived.
Carbon monoxide poisoning is considered the cause of both incidents, although an earlier autopsy of the Washington couple was inconclusive.
As with the South Charleston incident, the source may be the heating element of the hotel swimming pool, which was near the room.
When the accident occurred in West Virginia, many people were surprised to find that hotels were not required to have carbon monoxide detectors in their rooms. West Virginia lawmakers made that change last year, but requirements for carbon monoxide detectors still vary widely across the country.
About 27 states have laws requiring detectors in new residential construction, and some states address rental properties, schools and day care centers. But Michigan, Vermont and New Jersey were the only other states requiring detectors in hotel rooms, according a 2012 survey by the National Conference of State Legislatures.
North Carolina officials also found that carbon monoxide testing was not part of the hotel inspection process that took place at the Boone hotel just a few months ago.
It’s enough to make you want to take a $35 plug-in detector with you the next time you travel.
But hopefully states and the hotel industry will begin a much broader response, with specific requirements on detectors in all hotel rooms and regular inspections of heating elements throughout the hotel.