WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker and Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (N.J.-12) today announced a $90,466 federal grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to purchase, install, repair and replace carbon monoxide detectors in Trenton public housing communities.

“All Americans deserve protection from carbon monoxide, no matter where they live, how much money they make, or whether they live in public or rural housing,” said Sen. Menendez, ranking member of the Senate’s housing subcommittee. “This grant will allow Trenton families to sleep safely at night without worrying about the potential silent killer. I applaud the House for passing my CO ALERTS Act that requires CO detectors in federally subsidized housing, and urge the Senate to take up this bill immediately so we can ensure homes across the country have carbon monoxide detectors.”

“Carbon monoxide deaths are entirely preventable, so we should be taking every measure possible to ensure the safety of all New Jerseyans, regardless of their socioeconomic background,” said Sen. Booker. “This federal funding will help give Trenton families the peace of mind they deserve by reducing the impact of this silent killer.”

“Everyone wants to know that their home is safe, and that their family is safe living in it — that’s not something that should be stripped from you just because you live in subsidized housing,” said Rep. Watson Coleman, a member of the House Appropriations Committee. “Programs like these are what I fight for on the Appropriations Committee, and I am proud to see these funds come back New Jersey to help give Trenton families protection from carbon monoxide.”

Sen. Menendez’s Carbon Monoxide Alarms Leading Every Resident to Safety (CO ALERTS) Act, which would ensure families living in federally assisted housing are safe from carbon monoxide poisoning, passed the House last year.

The CO ALERTS Act would ensure:

  • Carbon monoxide alarms in units that have potential carbon monoxide sources like gas-fired appliances, fireplaces, forced air furnaces, and attached garages;
  • Carbon monoxide alarms in rural housing, managed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA);
  • HUD provide guidance to public housing agencies on how to educate tenants on health hazards in the home, including carbon monoxide poisoning and lead poisoning; and
  • HUD, in consultation with the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), conduct a public study on requiring carbon monoxide alarms in housing not covered by the IFC.

While New Jersey is one of 27 states that require carbon monoxide alarms in private dwellings and one of just 14 states to require alarms in hotels and motels, HUD still does not require nor inspect for carbon monoxide alarms in HUD-assisted units, which includes both public housing and private landlords receiving Section 8 vouchers. The lack of CO detector requirements at the federal level still leaves residents vulnerable.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), CO poisoning is a leading cause of unintentional poisoning deaths in the United States. On average, 450 people die and over 50,000 are treated in emergency rooms nationally each year due to CO poisoning. The New Jersey Poison Control Center at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School handles approximately 300 carbon monoxide exposures a year, some of which are serious or fatal.

Known as the “silent killer,” carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, and nonirritating gas that is produced through the incomplete combustion of carbon-containing substances, according to the CDC. Symptoms of poisoning are generally non-specific and commonly include headache, dizziness, weakness, vomiting, chest pain and confusion. Large exposures can result in loss of consciousness, arrhythmias, seizures, or death. Since 2003, 14 public housing residents have died from carbon monoxide poisoning—including four in 2019.