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Amanda’s Law and the National Spotlight on Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Amanda’s law is a piece of New York State legislation dedicated to providing education and support in terms of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Amanda’s law is a piece of New York State legislation dedicated to providing education and support in terms of carbon monoxide poisoning. The law became effective on February 10, 2010, one year after the death of carbon monoxide poisoning victim, Amanda Hansen. 

According to the CDC, every year nearly 50,000 people experience carbon monoxide poisoning. Additionally, it is estimated that roughly 430 people die each year in the U.S. because of this harmful gas. 

Who Was Amanda Hansen? 

This New York law is named after Amanda Hansen, a 16 year old teen who lost her life to carbon monoxide poisoning on January 17, 2009. The teen was sleeping over at a friend’s house when a carbon monoxide leak from a defective boiler resulted in her untimely death. After her death, the Hansen family created the Amanda Hansen Foundation. Through this Foundation, the Hansen family aims to educate and support the public regarding the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning. The five initiatives of the foundation include the following: 

  • Create resources that will provide households with carbon monoxide detectors. 
  • Educate the public about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning, how to spot it, and what can be done to prevent it. 
  • Collaborate with local and national organizations to increase carbon monoxide poisoning awareness.
  • Enact legislation on the federal, state, and local levels to prevent accidents from occurring. 
  • Keep their daughter’s legacy alive through the advocacy of this silent killer. 

What Is Amanda’s Law?

Through the efforts of the Hansen family, Amanda’s law was passed in 2010. Under this law, New York state requires that every one and two family residents that have appliances that burn fuel must have a carbon monoxide alarm installed. According to the law, the detector must be installed “on the lowest story having a sleeping area.” The law also explains that “it is highly recommended that one unit be installed on each floor of the residence on which there is either a sleeping area or carbon monoxide source.”

What is Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs when there is too much carbon monoxide in the air that then gets inhaled by an individual. Once inhaled, carbon monoxide will make its way into a person’s bloodstream, replacing what should be oxygen. The lack of oxygen leads to organ failure as the body’s organs and tissues do not receive the oxygen they need in order to function. 

This harmful gas is produced when fuels such as gasoline, propane, wood, and charcoal are burned. Burning these fuels in tight spaces or poorly ventilated areas can lead to an excess of carbon monoxide in the air which subsequently leads to poisoning if inhaled at a high rate. Because carbon monoxide is odorless, colorless, and tasteless, it is often referred to as a “silent killer”. 

What Are The Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning vary depending on how severe is poisoning is. The higher the amount of carbon monoxide inhaled by an individual, the higher the severity of the poisoning is. 

Because oxygen is displaced from red blood cells when carbon monoxide is inhaled, the symptoms will typically be cognitive related. Symptoms of a poisoning may include a mild headache, mild nausea and or vomiting, muscle aches and pains, dizziness, and blurred vision. 

For more serious cases of carbon monoxide poisoning, an individual may experience a high degree of confusion, seizures, loss of consciousness, or an altered mental state. 

Individuals like Hansen who fall victim to carbon monoxide poisoning often do so because they are asleep. The carbon monoxide can be inhaled by an intoxicated or sleeping individual at a steady rate and may lead the individual to suffer from severe brain damage or death because of the prolonged exposure of breathing in the gas. 

How To Treat Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

The treatment for carbon monoxide poisoning is typically oxygen. Oxygen will expel the carbon monoxide from a person’s red blood cells. The oxygen treatment will allow your body to get the oxygen it needs so that your organs can continue to function. In mild cases of carbon monoxide poisoning, oxygen is delivered to the body using a face mask. In extreme cases, however, an individual may be intubated or put on a ventilator. 

Who Can Get Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?

Carbon monoxide poisoning can affect anyone including healthy individuals. However, there are risk factors that can increase the severity of a carbon monoxide poisoning. 

Unborn babies and children are at higher risk for severe carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide attaches more readily to fetal blood cells of unborn babies and children typically breathe at higher rates and can inhale more carbon monoxide. 

Older adults may be susceptible to long term brain damage after a carbon monoxide poisoning. Those who are anemic or have breathing issues may also face an increased risk of damage after a carbon monoxide poisoning. 

Individuals who are unconscious either because they are sleeping or are intoxicated are more likely to succumb to a poisoning because of prolonged exposure to the gas. 

How To Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

The easiest way to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning is through prevention. You can monitor the amount of carbon monoxide in your home by installing a carbon monoxide detector. Carbon monoxide detectors should be placed in the areas of the home where your family sleeps. This can include the bedroom or a hallway. Routinely check your carbon monoxide detector twice a year and replace the batteries as needed. 

Because carbon monoxide poisoning occurs when there is an accumulation of the gas in a tight space, you should never run your vehicle in a closed garage. If you do turn on your vehicle in the garage, always back it out and let it run in the driveway where there is proper ventilation. 

Use gas appliances in the manner they were intended. Gas leaks from appliances can lead to an accumulation of carbon monoxide however, having a detector in your home can alert you of this. If you do use appliances that burn fuel including a space heater, fireplaces, woodburning stoves, and furnaces, make sure that they are being used in a properly ventilated area. 

Carbon Monoxide Detectors and State Legislation

Similar legislation to Amanda’s Law regarding carbon monoxide detectors exists in other states as well. Currently, 27 states along with the District of Columbia require that private dwellings have a carbon monoxide detector. The details of the requirement vary from state to state. For example, some states require that a carbon monoxide detector must be installed when an individual is selling their property. Other states require that carbon monoxide detectors be installed in homes that have appliances that burn fuels. 

Another 11 states require carbon monoxide detectors in homes because the states have adopted the International Residential Code or because an amendment has been made to the state’s building code. 

Final Thoughts

While a vast majority of carbon monoxide poisonings happen by accident, there is much that can be done to prevent them. Legislation like Amanda’s Law is pivotal in ensuring homes are safe for all who live in them. Coupled with education about what causes carbon monoxide poisoning and how to prevent it, families can have a sense of peace knowing that they have full control over the safety of their home. 

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