After the power flicked off in millions of homes across Texas during the state’s historic freeze in mid-February, families like Shalemu Bekele’s faced an impossible choice: risk hypothermia or improvise to keep warm. Many brought charcoal grills inside or ran cars in enclosed spaces, either unaware of the dangers or too cold to think rationally, NBC News reports.
In their desperation, thousands of Texans unwittingly unleashed deadly gases into homes and apartments that, in many cases, were not equipped with potentially lifesaving carbon monoxide alarms, resulting in the country’s “biggest epidemic of CO poisoning in recent history,” according to Dr. Neil Hampson, a retired doctor who has spent more than 30 years researching carbon monoxide poisoning and prevention. Two other experts agreed.
In the aftermath of the unprecedented wave of poisonings two months ago, Texas lawmakers have taken few steps to protect residents from future carbon monoxide catastrophes. That choice caps more than a decade of ignored warnings and inaction that resulted in Texas being one of just six states with no statewide requirement for carbon monoxide alarms in homes, ProPublica, The Texas Tribune and NBC News found.