Appleton, Wisconsin — After becoming ill from carbon monoxide poisoning in her home, Ashley Wilson began asking questions about CO alarms at her children’s schools.
He has discovered something that the experts already know. CO alarms are not required in most buildings, including her son’s elementary school.
“I was shocked,” Richmond Elementary School principal Jack Nack told consumer reporter Ash-Har Qureshi.
“I’m surprised that so few people have it in the state of Wisconsin and even across the country. It’s hit and miss,” he said.
In February of 2020, Wilson says her family was poisoned after carbon monoxide gas seeped from a boiler room beneath her former apartment. She says no alarm was raised.
“I was just grateful that we were able to get out there – make the phone call, go to the emergency room and survive, because a lot of people don’t,” Wilson said.
The National Fire Protection Association, a nonprofit group that recommends and proposes codes and standards for fire protection equipment, says carbon monoxide detection systems can save lives. Even first responders carry portable devices when on call for their own safety.
Currently, there are no federal laws requiring CO alarms in buildings. Local laws regarding CO alarms and detectors vary by county and by cities and towns. There are exceptions to the rules as well. Some require them in new buildings, but not in existing buildings. Some require them in sleeping spaces while other requirements apply only to buildings with fuel-burning sources.
The most recent federal law, the Nicholas and Zachary Burt Memorial Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act of 2021, signed by the president, encourages states to adopt tougher standards but does not require the use of CO detectors. It authorizes the Consumer Protection Safety Commission to provide resources to states and encourage the use of alarms. It also sets up a grant program to help states sponsor awareness programs.
But Congress needed a federal agency to mandate CO alarms. After several carbon monoxide poisoning deaths, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development set a deadline of December 27 to install carbon monoxide alarms in its 3 million units nationwide.
Several cases of CO poisoning have been reported in the last few months,
In October, 8 people were taken to the hospital after falling ill due to a carbon monoxide leak at a Kansas City, Missouri, elementary school. and a few weeks before that, 16 people got sick in pennsylvania,
Neither Pennsylvania nor Missouri requires CO detectors in day care centers. And in 8 other states, some states, including Wisconsin, do not require them in schools.
“If we wanted to do detection in indoor spaces, it could be completely prevented, but we don’t,” Ashley Wilson said.
CDC says more than 400 Americans die accidentallyEvery year more than 20,000 people visit emergency rooms across America.
Faulty boilers, heaters and other fuel-burning sources such as generators are frequent sources.
Ashley and her husband, Travis, started a family campaign for change, calling and sending emails to install CO detectors at their children’s school.
Travis Wilson said, “I was angry, but something positive came out of our anger.”
The school district approved the detectors in all schools in the district thanks to Wilson’s efforts.
Pointing to a detector, Knack said, “They’re planted.” They are tested twice a month by a building engineer.”
Ashley is now working to change the law in Wisconsin. She wants all schools and day care facilities to require detectors in all buildings.
“It was so easy to do. I don’t know why no one else has done it already,” she said.