House OKs bill requiring carbon monoxide detectors in schools

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island is one step closer to joining a short list of states that require carbon monoxide detectors in all schools.

Under current law, the devices are a requirement in every home and business in Rhode Island, but not school buildings.

Legislation seeking to change that was approved Tuesday by a 74-0 vote in the House. One lawmaker was not present for the vote.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Joseph McNamara, said he’s cautiously optimistic it will fare well in the Senate as well.

“It’s critical to Rhode Island, with these older heating and ventilation systems, that we take this simple measure to protect our students,” said McNamara, D-Warwick.

McNamara’s bill would order all school districts to install and maintain CO detectors in any room or area that has a combustible device for heating.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, flavorless and very poisonous gas that can make a person feel sick and can be deadly.

Learn More: Carbon Monoxide Safety Guide »

Cranston High School East was temporarily closed in November after more than three dozen students and staff reported symptoms consistent with carbon monoxide exposure. Three people were sent to the hospital and one was confirmed to have high levels of carbon monoxide, but air quality tests conducted the following day showed no signs of the gas in the building.

Only California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine and Maryland have similar measures in place. According to McNamara, 500 people nationwide die from carbon monoxide poisoning each year and another 10,000 people seek medical treatment.

“It’s very basic for students parents and teachers that our schools are not only secure, but healthy,” he added.

A simple majority is needed for the bill to pass in the Senate. If it’s approved and signed into law by Gov. Gina Raimondo, it would take effect on Jan. 1, 2019.