Chairman Rockefeller's Remarks on Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: Sounding the Alarm on a Silent Killer

December 17, 2009

JDR Head ShotWASHINGTON, D.C.—It may be impossible to protect our loved ones from every risk in the world. But there are a lot of easy yet powerful precautions we can take, even in our own homes, to safeguard our families from danger.

When it comes to carbon monoxide (CO) – a poisonous, colorless, odorless and tasteless gas that can leak from blocked chimneys or faulty furnaces and water heaters – the simple yet crucial recommendation from leading safety and health organizations, is to install carbon monoxide alarms on every level of your home.

And yet, far too many do not follow this sensible advice that just may save their lives. Recent studies have found that only half of Americans say they have a CO alarm or detector in their homes.

The risk is real; the consequences can be deadly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 500 people die each year from carbon monoxide poisoning, and more than 15,000 seek medical attention for accidental CO exposure.

We have to do better. We need to raise public awareness. And we must do everything we can to encourage consumers to install these life saving devices in their homes.

Fortunately, many states are leading the way. Minnesota, Illinois, Alaska, Connecticut, Florida, Maryland and Georgia, have all passed aggressive legislation to address CO poisoning in family homes, requiring carbon monoxide alarms within ten or fifteen feet from any bedroom. I hope many more follow suit.

I want to thank Senators Pryor and Klobuchar for their ongoing leadership on this important issue. And I want to recognize today’s witnesses and thank them for sounding the alarm on carbon monoxide, bringing their experience to today’s hearing, and sharing their advice as we continue to raise awareness.