Menendez pushes bill to prevent CO poisoning in federally subsidized housing

Construction codes in New Jersey require homes to have carbon-monoxide alarms, but they don’t necessarily apply to federally subsidized housing units, putting tenants at risk. A bill co-sponsored by Sen. Bob Menendez is looking to change that, and in so doing, protect some 300,000 New Jersey residents.

Menendez’s bill would require the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to provide CO alarms in federally subsidized units with gas-fired appliances and forced-air furnaces and in rural housing managed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“HUD does not inspect for carbon monoxide alarms in assisted housing units. That includes not just public housing complexes for families and seniors, but all those private landlords who accept Section 8 vouchers for their tenants,” Menendez said at a press conference on Monday.

HUD Secretary Ben Carson has yet to institute a federal mandate on installing carbon monoxide alarms, instead promising $5 million in grants to help pay for an alarm installation monitoring process — but without setting requirements.

Each year, some 450 Americans die from unintentional CO poisoning, and more than 50,000 visit the emergency room. There were 16 accidental deaths in New Jersey in 2015.

Carbon monoxide is often dubbed the “silent killer” for a reason. The deadly gas is odorless and symptoms of a poisoning, which include headaches, dizziness and nausea, are too often confused with those of a viral infection.

“A CO detector is not a luxury accessory for the well-to-do homeowner. It is a basic lifesaving necessity that belongs in every home. And that includes public housing,” said Menendez.

The Senate bill was introduced in July, and a companion bill is scheduled for a vote in the House sometime this week.