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Carbon monoxide detectors save lives

This month a single father and his seven children, ages six to 13, all died from carbon monoxide poisoning in their home in Princess Anne ("Carbon monoxide blamed in deaths of father, 7 children in Princess Anne," April 7).

The culprit: a gas-powered generator in the kitchen. The rental house's electricity had recently been cut off.

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Are there any lessons to learn from tragedies like this? Several states, including Illinois, Massachusetts and Minnesota require detectors be installed within 10 or 15 feet of every bedroom of every dwelling. A recent Sun editorial called the devices a lifesaver ("The $30 lifesaver," April 7).

Maryland requires carbon monoxide detectors in newly constructed homes and all public school buildings, plus certain renovated buildings. That, however, doesn't help anyone living in residences that do not fall under the requirement.

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Baltimore City requires any property with CO-producing appliances or devices to have a working carbon monoxide alarm installed outside of all sleeping areas. However, the ordinance, enacted in 2010, is rarely enforced.

A study conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy in 2009 found that 86 percent of more than 600 city homes surveyed contained CO-producing equipment, yet only 28 percent of them had working alarms. The same study assessed people's carbon monoxide knowledge; on average, people could answer only six out of 11 questions on the subject correctly.

To educate families, the Injury Center runs three safety resource centers that share a common goal: to reduce injuries to children and families by raising awareness about, and access to, affordable safety products.

These safety resources are located in the Hopkins Children's Center and in a pediatric outpatient clinic. The third resource is a mobile safety center, available to attend community events throughout the city for free. For details about these resources visit http://www.HopkinsCARES.org.

Beyond stricter policies at a statewide level, we must work to reduce barriers to life-saving safety products of all types for families with limited incomes and raise all residents' awareness about the life-saving benefits of safety products such like carbon monoxide alarms.

Eileen McDonald, Baltimore

The writer is on the faculty at the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy at the Bloomberg School of Public Health.

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