The Invisible Killer: Carbon Monoxide Safety and Hotels

Carbon monoxide has been in the news recently in the wake of a series of gas-related deaths in a North Carolina hotel. While statistically rare, carbon monoxide poisoning nonetheless presents a serious problem for both hotel operators and their guests. This gas—odorless, tasteless, and colorless—can emit from malfunctioning furnaces and water heaters. If inhaled in sufficient quantities, it will cause everything from headaches and vertigo to seizures, cardiac arrhythmia, and even death.

If you’re a guest at a hotel—or spend any length of time in enclosed spaces where you might be exposed to carbon monoxide—you must be alert to the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offers the public an excellent informational brochure regarding carbon monoxide awareness: “Know the symptoms of CO poisoning. At moderate levels, you or your family can get severe headaches, become dizzy, mentally confused, nauseated, or faint. You can even die if these levels persist for a long time. Low levels can cause shortness of breath, mild nausea, and mild headaches, and may have longer-term effects on your health. Since many of these symptoms are similar to those of the flu, food poisoning, or other illnesses, you may not think that CO poisoning could be the cause.”

If you own and/or operate a hotel, you must constantly maintain any equipment that can potentially emit carbon monoxide, and also have fully operational CO detectors/alarms in all rooms. Many states enforce strict laws regarding CO detectors, and for good reason; not only does poorly-maintained equipment present a serious health risk to your guests, it also has the potential to cripple your business in the event of a poisoning incident.

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