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Poisoning victims push for CO detectors

February 27, 2007|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - Two of the five victims of a carbon monoxide poisoning incident in Chambersburg on Feb. 15 asked the Chambersburg Borough Council to consider making detectors for the potentially deadly gas mandatory in some rental properties.

"I was one of the CO (carbon monoxide) victims ... I believe CO detectors should be required in apartments" that have furnaces, Nancy Redcay of 120 S. Third St. told the council. The council did not call for making the detectors mandatory, but asked solicitor Thomas Finucane to come up with some type of incentive for landlords to install the devices.

Robert Redcay said he spent five days at a hospital in Altoona, Pa., and Nancy Redcay said she was in a Pittsburgh hospital for four days. She said three other people that were in the house, including her son, remain hospitalized.

Her son, Daniel Brown Jr., is at the Rehabilitation Center at Kernan Hospital in Baltimore, having been discharged from the University of Maryland Hospital on Saturday, Nancy Redcay said. Another man, Gregory Kerdeman, is at the same facility, she said.

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"He's doing very well. He's in the brain unit at Kernan," Redcay said of her son. The brain injuries he sustained in the incident are, she said, "hopefully not permanent."

The fifth person, Brittanny Hockenberry, was in "good-to-fair" condition at George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C.

Finucane said the detectors are not required under Pennsylvania's Uniform Building Code and that anything beyond what the code requires has to be approved by the Department of Labor and Industry.

"Ideally, it should be a legislative change," Finucane said. He added that there are other issues, including the long-term reliability of the detectors, which are prone to false alarms.

Eliminating suicides and carbon monoxide poisoning deaths in vehicles, about 100 people a year die of carbon monoxide poisoning in homes, nationwide, Finucane said. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission does not support making them mandatory, he said.

"Isn't this something that could be done under the property maintenance code rather than the building code?" Council President William McLaughlin asked.

Finucane said there could be incentives for landlords to put the detectors in rental units. Making them mandatory, he said, would mean landlords would pass the cost on to tenants.

Only apartments with furnaces or other sources of heat produced by combustion would need detectors, McLaughlin said. For apartments with electric heat, he said, "the combustion is taking place somewhere in West Virginia" in a power plant.

Councilwoman Elaine Swartz asked Finucane to come up with "a creative incentive" for landlords to install detectors, while Councilwoman Sharon Bigler said stricter requirements for cleaning chimneys and furnaces would be useful.

The incident at the Redcays' home was believed to have been caused by a blocked chimney to which a gas furnace vent was connected. Nancy Redcay said she is considering a civil suit against the landlord.

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