Portsmouth, N.H., rescue personnel give aid to guests and employees of the Hilton Garden Inn after high levels of carbon monoxide forced evacuations on Feb. 15, 2010.(Photo: Rich Beauchesne, AP)
Eight people have died and at least 170 others have been treated for
carbon monoxide poisoning in the past three years in hotels, which
rarely are equipped with CO alarms, a USA TODAY investigation finds.
a review of state and local laws finds that few states or
municipalities require hotels to be equipped with the alarms - devices
that the National Fire Protection Association says should be near
bedrooms in every home.
monoxide in a hotel "can harm dozens at a time," and a hotel "has a
duty to protect its guests," says Lindell Weaver, a University of Utah
professor of medicine who's written studies on the subject and evaluated
more than 1,000 patients with CO poisoning.
Often called "the
silent killer," CO is a colorless, odorless and tasteless toxic gas
produced by incomplete combustion in fuel-burning devices such as motor
vehicles, furnaces, boilers and heaters for water and swimming pools..
There are no complete statistics on how many people are treated or die from CO poisoning annually - let alone in hotels.
USA TODAY analysis of more than 1,000 news accounts of hotel incidents
and interviews with local fire departments found 30 instances from 2010
through Nov. 8, of fire and other public-safety officials finding high
levels of CO gas in hotels.
More than 1,300 people were evacuated in the incidents.
the Embassy Suites near San Francisco airport in Burlingame, Calif.,
for instance, about 400 people were evacuated on Nov. 8 because of high
CO levels. Central County Fire Department Chief Don Dornell said a
And in January, a guest was killed, 16
others were taken to a hospital and the Holiday Inn Express in South
Charleston, W.Va., was evacuated after carbon monoxide leaked into the
hotel from a swimming pool heater, South Charleston Fire Chief John
As of last year, there were 4.9 million guest rooms
in 51,214 hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts with with 15 rooms or more
in the U.S., according to the American Hotel & Lodging Association.
says each of those rooms should be equipped with alarms to alert guests
and hotel managers if gas levels are dangerously high.
asked major hotel chains to identify hotels with alarms for every room.
Most didn't respond, and none named a single hotel with such equipment.
each room with an alarm - which cost about $100 apiece and must be
replaced about every five years - is too expensive compared with the
risk, says Tom Daly, a consultant for the American Hotel & Lodging
Installation could cost the industry $250 million, he
says, while the chance of guests being poisoned is as rare as "being
hit by a meteor."
Medical experts - including Weaver and Robert
Rosenthal, a doctor and professor at the University of Maryland's School
of Medicine - dispute the comparison.
"I've treated a number of
people with CO poisoning in hotels, but I have yet to treat a patient
with a meteor injury," Rosenthal says.