Too often, it takes tragedy to bring awareness, concern and action to an issue. The life-threatening danger of carbon monoxide poisoning is one such example.

Some weeks ago, four young adults died in Byron, apparently as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carbon monoxide is often referred to as “the silent killer” because exposure to the poisonous gas is odorless and tasteless — making it difficult to recognize. However, exposure to the poison can be prevented and early detection is possible.

This session, I sponsored L.D. 623, a bill that was passed and will become law, requiring more buildings — such as schools, sorority and fraternity houses, child-care facilities, hotels, motels and bed-and-breakfasts — to have carbon monoxide detectors. Gov. Paul LePage vetoed the bill, but both the Senate and House overrode his veto.

Like smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors are a sure way to warn us when danger is present. However, unlike smoke, which you can smell, carbon monoxide is not noticeable without a detector.

By law, smoke detectors are required everywhere; now, this new measure asks the same for carbon monoxide detectors. My hope is that someday, every building and home in Maine will have a carbon monoxide detector.

A carbon monoxide detector can be purchased at nearly any store for less than $30. Typically, they are battery-powered and should be placed outside each sleeping area. It is worth the investment to have the peace of mind that you and your family will be alerted to the presence of this poisonous, odorless gas.

More than 100 emergency department visits occur each year in Maine because of carbon monoxide exposure, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Warning signs of carbon monoxide exposure are flu-like symptoms without fever, such as headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, drowsiness and confusion.

Should you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, leave your house immediately and call 911. You can also call the Northern New England Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222.

You should not go back into the building until you know the carbon monoxide levels are safe.

Carbon monoxide exposure is more prevalent in winter months, when snowbanks block air vents, and generators are used for backup. In fact, carbon monoxide poisoning can rise as high as 30 cases of exposure per week.

But carbon monoxide detectors are only half of the solution toward ensuring safety. An aggressive statewide public awareness campaign about the dangers of carbon monoxide is integral to our collective safety.

By using organizations that already are invested in public safety, including the state firefighters union and the Maine State Federation of Fire Fighters, we can spread the word about carbon monoxide safety and provide tips for avoiding common and deadly mistakes.

Some local fire departments also visit schools and teach children about fire safety, but more could add information about carbon monoxide exposure and poisoning to their curriculum.

Just as we’ve seen with universal seatbelt usage, if we start early by teaching our kids about safety measures, they, too, can become strong messengers on the importance of carbon monoxide detectors in the home. Energizing our schools and fire-safety professionals will be my next step in hoping to find a straightforward way to get the message out.

Our efforts also need to expand beyond schools. Municipal organizations, community service groups and many others need to take this on as a serious project. Perhaps a business would help finance the printing and distribution of print materials or sponsor the production of a public service announcement for television, radio and local movie theaters. I pledge to help initiate such efforts in our communities and among our residents.

Carbon monoxide poisoning can be prevented. And lives can be saved with increased carbon monoxide detectors in use and widespread understanding about this “silent killer.”

Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, serves on the Legislature’s Transportation Committee. He previously served in the Maine House of Representatives and was secretary of state.

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