New Study Reports Hotel Guests at Risk From Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Researchers report on the incidence and impact of CO poisoning of hotel guests


San Diego, June 5, 2007 – Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning kills over 200 people every year in the United States. Although inexpensive CO detectors have been available since 1989, their use in hotels, motels and resorts is not widespread. In fact, while every guest room in the U.S. must contain a smoke detector, there is no federal mandate for CO detectors. In a study published in the July issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers from LDS Hospital report on the incidence and impact of CO poisoning of hotel guests.

Using data collected at the LDS Hospital Hyperbaric Medicine Department and searches of legal databases and online news databanks, the researchers found 68 incidents of CO poisoning occurring at hotels, motels, and resorts between 1989 and 2004. In these incidents, 711 guests, 41 employees or owners and 20 rescue personnel were accidentally poisoned. Of those poisoned, 27 died, 66 developed pathological conditions, and 6 had conditions resulting in a jury verdict. Jury verdicts have averaged $4.8 million per incident (range=$1 million-17.5 million). Poisoning occurred at hotels of all classes.

According to Lindell K. Weaver, MD, medical director of the LDS Hospital Hyperbaric Medicine Center and Professor of Medicine at the University of Utah School of Medicine, "The number of reported incidents of poisoning per year has not decreased over this 15-year interval…While the risk of CO poisoning from a one-night stay to an individual guest is small, the accumulated lifetime risk to individuals who travel frequently would be higher. This risk could approach zero with effective CO prevention measures."

The authors contacted 43 sites where CO poisonings had occurred and found that only 12% had installed CO detectors after the incidents. In 101 sites where no CO poisoning had occurred, only 11 % had installed CO detectors in guest rooms.

Dr Weaver continues, "Despite evidence of efficacy, CO alarms have not been installed widely by the lodging industry, even at properties where guests and employees have been injured by CO. No official statement from the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) was found pertinent to CO poisoning prevention, although the AH&LA educational foundation contracted with Schirmer Engineering (Deerfield, Illinois) to study CO risk in that industry. The AH&LA study made no specific recommendations regarding prevention of CO poisoning to guests, and concluded, 'AH&LA will continue to monitor industry-related carbon monoxide issues.' Until CO alarms are installed in hotels, motels, and resorts, guests should consider carrying a CO alarm when they travel."

The article is "Carbon Monoxide Poisoning at Motels, Hotels, and Resorts" by Lindell K. Weaver, MD, and Kayla Deru, BA. It appears in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Volume 32, Issue 7 (July 2007) published by Elsevier.

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Full text of the article is available upon request; contact eAJPM@ucsd.edu to obtain copies. To request an interview with the lead author, please contact Lindell K. Weaver, MD; Lindell.weaver@intermountainmail.org; 801-408-3623.

About The American Journal of Preventive Medicine
The American Journal of Preventive Medicine is the official journal of The American College of Preventive Medicine and the Association for Prevention Teaching and Research. It publishes articles in the areas of prevention research, teaching, practice and policy. Original research is published on interventions aimed at the prevention of chronic and acute disease and the promotion of individual and community health. The journal features papers that address the primary and secondary prevention of important clinical, behavioral and public health issues such as injury and violence, infectious disease, women's health, smoking, sedentary behaviors and physical activity, nutrition, diabetes, obesity, and alcohol and drug abuse. Papers also address educational initiatives aimed at improving the ability of health professionals to provide effective clinical prevention and public health services. The journal also publishes official policy statements from the two co-sponsoring organizations, health services research pertinent to prevention and public health, review articles, media reviews, and editorials.

The American Journal of Preventive Medicine is ranked 14th out of 99 Public, Environmental & Occupational Health titles and 16th out of 105 General and Internal Medicine titles according to the Thomson Scientific Institute for Scientific Information's 2005 Journal Citation Reports.


About Elsevier
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