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Journal Article


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, USA. MMWR Morb. Mortal. Wkly. Rep. 2004; 53(9): 189-192.


(Copyright © 2004, (in public domain), Publisher U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)






Each year in the United States, approximately 500 persons die from unintentional carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, often during electric power outages caused by severe storms. Use of residential CO alarms has been recommended to reduce the incidence of CO poisoning. In September 2000, Mecklenburg County, North Carolina (2002 population: 722,367), adopted a public health ordinance requiring a CO alarm in the majority of residences; all-electric residences without attached garages (35.4% of all homes) were exempt. The ordinance also permitted use of alarms without battery back-up. On December 4, 2002, an ice storm caused 78.9% of county households to lose power. During the next 9 days, 124 cases of symptomatic CO poisoning were reported. To characterize these poisonings and the effectiveness of the CO alarm ordinance, local emergency physicians, fire department authorities, and CDC conducted an investigation. This report summarizes the results of that investigation, which determined that 96.2% of the severe poisonings occurred in homes with no reported functioning CO alarm. As a result of these findings, on October 8, 2003, Mecklenburg County officials amended the ordinance to require alarms with battery back-ups in all residences. Officials in other communities should consider enacting such alarm ordinances to prevent CO poisonings.


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