Two more deaths in Michigan mark a rising death toll from carbon monoxide poisoning in Housing and Urban Development housing, NBC News reports. Since 2003, the gas has killed at least 13 public housing residents, by NBC News’ count — four since the beginning of this year.
Anthony and Gwendolyn Fleming died in February at their house at the Hickory Hollow Cooperative after the carbon monoxide levels in their bedroom were higher than the fire department’s carbon monoxide meter could measure, according to the department’s incident report.
Public housing residents are particularly vulnerable to the hazard. Carbon monoxide is especially harmful to the elderly, who often have other health problems and are more likely to live in HUD housing; babies and young children are susceptible to carbon monoxide poisoning, as well. Nationally, African Americans are also more likely to die from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning than other racial groups, according to a 2015 study conducted by researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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Despite these deaths, HUD has been slow to address the problem: The agency acted only after NBC News revealed the lack of protections for millions of low-income families in an investigation this year. Last month, HUD announced that it is drafting the first federal rule requiring CO detectors in public housing — a process that’s likely to take months, if not years, to complete.