New York State Exposed: Silent killer

Posted at: 03/24/2014 9:50 AM
Updated at: 03/24/2014 6:42 PM

In News10NBC’s exclusive series New York State Exposed, we continue to look into how the state impacts your life, both good and bad. A law designed to protect us against carbon monoxide poisoning seems to missing something.

They call it “the silent killer” and it is a genuine public safety issue. Hundreds die each year in the U.S. from carbon monoxide poisoning. While the state of New York requires most homes to have a carbon monoxide detector, News10NBC discovered, at most every other place your family visits, there are no such requirements.

At the brand new Tom Wahl’s restaurant in Brighton, they’re cooking up meals their customers love. What those customers may not realize and can't see is that the restaurant is also looking out for their safety.  

In the backroom, near the washer, dryer and hot water heater sits a carbon monoxide detector.

Chris Dunbar, Tom Wahl's General Manager, said, “I actually didn't think about businesses having it, but it makes sense to me that it should be a requirement."

It wasn't required, but the fire marshal suggested they install the hard wired protection device upon hearing of a tragedy downstate. On Long Island last month at a seafood restaurant, the manager died of carbon monoxide poisoning and two dozen other people were treated at hospitals after investigators discovered a leak in the flue pipe of the hot water heater. In Denver last week, nine people at a restaurant were taken to the hospital for carbon monoxide exposure.

Chief Chris Ebmeyer, Penfield Fire Department, said, "Carbon monoxide is one of those things that people don't think a lot about, but it's definitely something that can cause you harm and kill you. We call it the silent killer."

According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 430 people die of carbon monoxide poisoning in the U.S. each year. Thousands more are hospitalized. In 2010, state lawmakers passed Amanda’s law, mandating homes and apartments to have working CO detectors.

News10NBC discovered that in most other places in New York State there is no such requirement. That includes restaurants, schools, churches and government buildings, all places where large groups of people congregate.

Chief Ebmeyer said, "Most buildings are heated by a heat source that has a potential to produce carbon monoxide and any type of prolonged exposure due to a faulty heating system or incomplete combustion of fossil fuel can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning."

In light of the recent restaurant tragedy, there are now several bills pending in the Assembly and Senate to expand where CO detectors should be required. Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle says it's a safety issue should be considered, but also has to be weighed with the cost burden in mind.

Joe Morelle said, "Certainly while we're balancing interests of businesses and schools and don't want to put too many regulations on them. Nonetheless, what's most important is to make sure the health and safety of residents in buildings and customers, workers and employees is safeguarded."

Tom Wahl's is not waiting for legislation in making sure their customers and employees are protected from this "silent killer”.

Dunbar said, "It's definitely something we're going to look into possibly for the other stores too because like I said, I've been kind of just informed about that."

Carbon monoxide detectors and schools