A new study has discovered a pretty disturbing, deadly fact: The lethal gas carbon monoxide can pass through gypsum wallboard, better known as drywall. Simply put, your home’s own walls won’t protect you from the poisonous gas that could filter in from a neighbor’s apartment.

That’s the topic of a story Forbes published Tuesday headlined “Carbon Monoxide, A Silent Killer: Are You Safe?’ Apparently, you often are not. The article is a fine primer on the dangers of CO poisoning, and talks about the implications and issues that arise out of the new research.

The story cited a study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). That research  determined that carbon monoxide passes through drywall, the apparently quite porous material typically used as walls and ceiling in homes.

Here is the summary of the research that JAMAs provided

“Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is a significant U.S. health problem, responsible for approximately 500 accidental deaths annually,1 and a risk of 18% to 35% for cognitive brain injury 1 year after poisoning.2 Most morbidity and mortality from CO poisoning is believed to be preventable through public education and CO alarm use.

States have been enacting legislation mandating residential CO alarm installation.3 However, as of December 2012, 10 of the 25 states with statutes mandating CO alarms exempted homes without fuel-burning appliances or attached garages, believing that without an internal CO source, risk is eliminated. This may not be true if CO diffuses directly through wallboard material.”

The Forbes story quoted the JAMA study’s lead author, who explained that in a multi-family building, one of your neighbors could foolishly bring a charcoal grill inside to their own apartment, for example. The carbon monoxide from that grill could infiltrate your apartment by passing through the drywall, and if you are exempt from having a CO detector under your state’s law, you could sustain carbon monoxide poisoning.

That why some of the experts in the Forbes story say that state laws should require all homes to have CO detectors, not just residences with gas stoves and fireplaces or an attached garage where a car could be left idling, according to Forbes. As one expert said, once the gas is in a building it can go from unit to unit.

Forbes cited a case in a county in North Carolina, which required most houses to have CO detectors, but exempted all-electric residences that didn’t have attached garages. Alarms that were powered by electricity alone were  also permitted.

Months later, when an ice storm knocked out power for nine days, there were 124 cases of carbon monoxide poisoning in the county, Forbes said. And roughly 96 percent of the “severe” poisonings happened in homes that didn’t have a functioning CO detector.

As a result, the North Carolina county changed its ordinance to mandate carbon monoxide detectors in all homes, and that the devices installed had to have a back-up battery system, according to Forbes.

The Centers for Disease Control also offered its own scary fact: That just 30 percent of U.S. homes have working carbon monoxide detectors.

Perhaps even worse, according to Forbes, is that some folks mistakenly believe that their smoke detectors also act as carbon monoxide alarms.

The Forbes story also addressed an issue that I’ve written many blogs about, namely carbon monoxide poisoning in hotels. When you are traveling, you should proactively protect yourself from carbon monoxide poisoning by bringing a portable carbon monoxide detector with you, Forbes suggested.

It’s good advice. Such CO alarms can be purchased in hardware stores, and are small and relatively cheap, according to Forbes.

Here are some more disturbing findings coming out of the investigation of the Boone, N.C., hotel where three guests apparently succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning and died.

The Charlotte Observer reported Sunday that the Best Western hotel didn’t put in carbon monoxide detectors — as recommended by an instruction manual — when it installed a pool heater believed to have been the source of the lethal gas.

Best Western Plus Blue Ridge Plaza, run by Appalachian Hospitality Management, had transferred that heater out of another hotel operated by the company, a Sleep Inn, in 2011, the Observer reported. The move of that heater, by the way, was done without any permit or inspection, which the newspaper said was an apparent violation of North Carolina’s building code.

Here is the rundown in this series of errors by the hotel and public officials that apparently led to three innocent victims losing their lives.

In April an elderly married couple, Daryl and Shirley Jenkins, died in room 225 of the Best Western. Despite the suspicious nature of their deaths, local fire officials never tested for carbon monoxide at the scene, according to the Observer.

The county medical examiner didn’t deign to come to the hotel room, nor did he ask for a toxicology test on Mrs. Jenkins to be expedited. That report ended up being sent to the ME a week before room 225 had claimed a third victim, 11-year-old Jeffrey Williams. The report said that Mrs. Jenkins had deadly levels of CO in her blood.

Nonetheless room 225, located directly above the hotel pool, remained in use.  And Williams died. The ME has since resigned.

The Observer obtained a copy of the owner’s manual for the Jandy Lite 2 pool heater that the Best Western moved from the Sleep Inn. Its first page “strongly recommends” that carbon monoxide detectors be installed near the heater when it is used for an indoor pool, the paper reported.

The manual also warns that faulty installation of the heater can cause death or severe injury from carbon monoxide poisoning, according to the Observer.

And here’s another little twist in the case. The Best Western had a contractor convert fireplaces in the rooms that had them, which included 225, to natural gas. As part of that process, the contractor was supposed to install carbon monoxide detectors in rooms that had undergone the conversion. Instead, the contractor mistakenly put in alarms that detected combustible gas, the Observer said, not CO.

Needless to say, a carbon monoxide alarm in room 225 would have saved several lives.

Thankfully, the three victims have not died in vain. Last month the North Carolina General Assembly passed legislation that mandates that hotels put in CO detectors in enclosed spaces that have that a fossil-fuel-burning appliance, heater or fireplace, as well as in hotel rooms that share a floor, wall or ceiling with such spaces, the Observer reported.

That law goes into effect in October.

One person was killed and 16 suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning at a packing facility at a North Carolina farm Friday night, according to the Asheville Citizen-Times.

EMTs arrived at Norton Creek Farms in Franklin, N.C., about 7 p.m. Friday, where they found two workers who were unresponsive. The two were discovered in a refrigerated house where fruits and vegetables are kept, the Citizen-Times reported.

One of those workers suffered a heart attack and was pronounced dead at Angel Medical Center in Franklin, while the other worker was airlifted to Greenville Memorial Hospital, condition unknown.

Four witnesses who tried to help at the scene were overcome by the carbon monoxide, whose source is under investigation. In addition, 11 people from the Macon County Sheriff’s Department and local fire departments also got ill from their exposure to the lethal gas, according to the Citizen-Times.

Many of them were dizzy and vomiting, and they were taken to Angel Medical.

Three people in Falls Church, Va., had to be hospitalized Wednesday for carbon monoxide poisoning after a faulty furnace leaked the lethal gas, according to WTOP-TV. Their apartment building was evacuated.

Fairfax County EMTs were called to the Baileys Crossroads apartment building at Malibu Circle at 2:30 a.m., the TV station reported. Several of the residents has symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, including nausea and dizziness.

A man and woman were taken to INOVA Fairfax Hospital, while another man was sent to Arlington Hospital. Authorities told WTOP-TV that the three were going to recover.

Residents in the apartment building were evacuated after firefighters tested and found dangerous levels of carbon monoxide. The building was ventilated, WTOP-TV said.

Workers from Washington Gas were called to the scene and found that a faulty furnace was the source of the carbon monoxide.


A coroner confirmed Monday that a young Indiana couple found in their house on the Fourth of July died of carbon monoxide poisoning, according to the Associated Press.–Couple-Found-Dead

Mitchell Rider, 28, and Jamie Hooker, 28, were found by Rider’s father, who also discovered that there was a car left running in their garage, AP reported.

Elkhart County Coroner John White said that tests found that the victims had more than 80 percent carbon monoxide in their blood, when a mere 40 percent is toxic, according to AP.

Authorities are still investigating the deaths.


A 95-year-old Pennsylvania man was found dead, and his sister was rendered unconscious, due to carbon monoxide fumes from a car left running in their garage, according to KDKA.

The tragedy happened Saturday night in Baldwin, Pa., in a home that the elderly brother and sister shared.

The body of the victim, Jack Skerba, was discovered in the upstairs of the home, KDKA reported. An autopsy was set to be performed on his body Sunday,

The sister was hospitalized, but is expected to recover, KDKA said.


After the senseless deaths of three people, it looks like North Carolina will be passing legislation that would require hotels to put carbon monoxide detectors next to fuel-burning appliances, the Charlotte News & Observer reported Wednesday.

The proposal has been added to a bill that was approved by a House committee this week, and comes on the heels of the news that several people died as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning at a Best Western in Boone, N.C.

On April 16 an elderly couple, Daryl and Shirley Mae Jenkins, died of carbon monoxide poisoning from a leak in a pool heater when they were staying at the Best Western. On June 8, 11-year-old Jeffrey Williams and his mother Jeannie stayed in the same room as the Jenkins, and they also suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning. Williams died, and his mother is still trying to recovery from her injuries.

The proposed legislation would mandate that hotels install carbon monoxide detectors “in every enclosed space with a fossil-fuel burning heater, appliance of fireplace — and in every hotel room that shares a common wall, floor or ceiling with such spaces,” the News & Observer wrote.

The North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association helped draw up the proposal, which would direct the state’s Building Code Council to adopt the new rules regarding the carbon monoxide alarms. The body is set to meet in early September.

North Carolina is one of 27 states that mandate that new homes have carbon monoxide detectors, but it doesn’t require lodging facilities to have them, according to the News & Observer.

It was heartening to read that some national chains take it upon themselves to install carbon monoxide detectors in their hotels. La Quinta Inns & Suites puts them in every area where there’s a pool with gas-fired equipment, while Marriott requires CO alarms “wherever fuel-burning equipment is located within a hotel,” the News & Observer wrote.


Police in North Carolina have broadened their investigation the deaths of  three guests of carbon monoxide poisoning at a hotel, now looking at two additional hotels owned by the same company, according to WRAL.

Authorities in Boone, N.C., said that their probe of the April 16 deaths of Daryl Jenkins and his wife Shirley Mae, and the June 8 death of Jeffrey Williams, 11, will continue into July, the TV station reported. The three victims died after staying in the same room at the Best Western Blue Ridge Plaza. The hotel has been closed since Williams’ death.

AJD Investments owns the Best Western as well as the Sleep Inn and Country Inns & Suites in Boone, and all three hotels are managed by Appalachian Hospitality Management, WRAL reported.

Police are now collecting records from the Sleep Inn and Country Inns, and questioning employees at both establishments. That’s because all three hotels shared workers and equipment, according to WRAL.

Once police finish their investigation, they will submit their findings to the local district attorney to see if criminal charges should be brought.

Authorities blame a malfunctioning pool heater for releasing fatal doses of carbon monoxide at the Best Western. The Watauga County Medical Examiner has resigned over his handling, or alleged mishandling, of the three deaths at the hotel.

He didn’t look at the bodies of the three victims at the scene, and didn’t order expedited tests to confirm that the first two people, the elderly married couple, had died of carbon monoxide poisoning, according to WRAL. Then the hotel still rented out the room where they had died, leading to the death of Williams and injury to his mother, Jeannie Williams.

Because of the carbon monoxide she breathed in, and rendered her unconscious, the woman can only walk using a walker, and she is trying to get back the full use of her arms and legs, WRAL reported.








I love hearing these kinds of stories. A pet once again saved its human family from certain death from carbon monoxide poisoning.

This incident happened Thursday night in Bristol, Va., where the dog Buster Brown came to the rescue, according to WBIR-TV.

The dog came into the room of his owner, Michael Carr, and woke him up. After that alert from Buster Brown, Carr got out of bed and found his girlfriend, who was unconscious on a set of stairs, WBIR reported.

Carr ran out of his house to get help, and saw what was described as “a life-saving crew” by WBIR, which I assume was an EMT crew. He stopped it, and the EMTs helped evacuate everyone in his house.

Six people were hospitalized with carbon monoxide poisoning,  WBIR said.

The source of the carbon monoxide was apparently a generator in Carr’s basement.

Carr credited Buster Brown with saving the lives of everyone in his house, and so do I.




It’s summer, steaming and people are heading to lakes to go boating and cool off. In other words, it’s the season for carbon monoxide poisoning.

The exhaust from a boat engine and from on-board generator this weekend killed one man, and sickened others, in two separate incidents in the boiling hot Southwest.

On Saturday at Bear Lake in Randolph, Utah, a passenger on a boat became sick, according to the Associated Press. His boat mates called 911 for help, assuming that he had heat stroke.

The man’s friends, and EMTs, performed CPR on the 22-year-old, to no avail. He was pronounced dead at the scene, and the Medical Examiner said the cause of death was carbon monoxide poisoning, AP reported.

The boat was an older model without an outboard engine, according to AP, and authorities believe the victim was sitting near an exhaust pipe and inhaled the lethal fumes.

In the second incident, on Sunday morning about a dozen people who were boating on Lake Mead in Nevada became ill because of exposure to carbon monoxide, apparently from a generator on the vessel, AP reported.

Five people were airlifted to a Las Vegas hospital; four were transported by ambulance; and three were treated and released, according to AP.