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New law will require carbon monoxide detectors

Students receive medical attention Monday, Dec. 3, 2012, outside Finch Elementary School in southwest Atlanta. Potentially lethal carbon monoxide levels at the school sent at least 42 students and six adults to hospitals Monday amid the evacuation of about 500 students, authorities said. (AP Photo/Atlanta Journal Constitution, John Spink)

It’s been six years since a massive windstorm left millions in Western Washington without power. Many fired up charcoal grills in their homes or apartments to get warm or cook. Little did they know how dangerous that would be.

“A lot of people were suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning that night,” Captain Kyle Ohashi with the Kent Fire Department tells KING 5 about a particularly bad occurrence that sickened 60 people in one apartment complex alone. Over 250 people across the Puget Sound area got sick after the Hannukkah Eve 2006 windstorm, eight died.

It’s a common problem, especially in places where immigrants and others haven’t gotten word of the potential dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.

A new law aims to change that. Starting January 1, all apartment, condos and single family rental homes will be required to have carbon monoxide detectors.

The detectors, which can cost upwards of $20 or more, sound an alarm when they sense the colorless, odorless gas. It can come from all sorts of sources including chimney, furnaces, hot water heaters and gas stoves. The most common cause of poisoning is the burning of charcoal in enclosed spaces and the running of generators in garages or near air intakes, according to a handout from the Seattle Fire Department.

On Monday, carbon monoxide poisoning sent at least 42 students and six adults to hospitals in Atlanta and sparked the evacuation of about 500 students at an elementary school. The school had no detectors and they weren’t required by law, authorities said.

KIRO Radio’s Karen Taylor contributed to this report.

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