Congressmen García, Cunningham, Senator Harris Urge Passage of Legislation to Make Carbon Monoxide Detectors Mandatory

May 7, 2019
Press Release

Washington, DC- U.S. Representative Jesús “Chuy” García (IL-04), Representative Joe Cunningham (SC-01) and Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) today sent a letter to the Financial Services Committee Chairwoman, Rep. Maxine Waters (CA-43) and Ranking Member Rep. Patrick McHenry (R, NC-10) and to the Senate Committee on Banking Housing and Urban Affairs Chairman Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Ranking Member Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) urging them to expedite consideration and passage of the Safe Housing for Families Act, to ensure all families are safe from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning in their homes. This legislation will make CO detectors mandatory in all HUD-subsidized housing programs across the nation.

In January of this year, two people died at Benedict Allen Court apartments in Columbia, S.C.  Last month two additional deaths occurred as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning in the Hickory Hollow housing complex in Detroit. The night before the two deaths in Detroit firefighters detected elevated carbon monoxide levels in 26 units across the complex, forcing the families to be evacuated. 

“It is unconscionable that the government houses the most vulnerable among us yet its very own facilities threaten the lives of the people it seeks to help,” said Congressman García. “How many more people have to die under the government’s watch before we act? The Administration has signaled the need for federal legislation, and a bipartisan coalition of Members of Congress have weighed in -- we must pass legislation immediately to prevent future lives lost.”

“In the short time that I have been in Congress, four Americans have died in public housing complexes from carbon monoxide poisoning, from Columbia to Detroit,” said Rep. Cunningham. “Let me be perfectly clear, each and every one of those deaths could and should have been prevented. It is absolutely unacceptable that it has taken us this long to act. I urge my colleagues to pass the Safe Housing for Families Act as soon as possible, before yet another senseless death occurs.”

“This is an urgent crisis. People are dying, and this administration still hasn’t implemented a plan to install carbon monoxide detectors in public housing units so that we can avoid any more preventable tragedies,” said Senator Harris. “I am urging my colleagues to immediately pass the Safe Housing for Families Act to codify into law that every public housing unit must have carbon monoxide detectors, provide funding for this proposal, and affirm our commitment to protecting the health and wellbeing of every single American.”

The Safe Housing for Families Act sets a federal requirement for CO detectors in public housing

and provides a funding mechanism to help implement their installation and maintenance. Already, at least 13 reported deaths related to carbon monoxide poisoning have occurred in public housing since 2003.[i] According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 50,000 people go to emergency rooms every year due to carbon monoxide poisoning and over 430 people die annually from this silent killer.[ii]

To view the letter, click here.