In May, six tourists died of carbon monoxide poisoning while staying at an Airbnb rental property in Santiago, Chile. This wasn’t an isolated incident. In 2018, a couple visiting San Miguel de Allende, Mexico also died after unknowingly inhaling gas emitted by a heater in their Airbnb rental.
While Airbnb recommends that hosts install carbon monoxide and smoke detectors—and provides them for free to eligible renters—neither is actually required by the rental platform, per its website. (However, in certain U.S. cities and states, such as New York and California, detectors are required in most homes anyway.)
Still, these rules are rarely enforced and some homeowners may decide to forgo the installation of properly working detectors. That in mind, here’s a quick safety PSA for those of you travelling during the upcoming holidays: Before booking an international Airbnb, be sure to check your listing for the inclusion of a carbon monoxide and smoke detector. These should appear under “Amenities” in a listing. If you see either of these crossed out, then it might be worth re-considering the booking, particularly if you’re travelling with kids or elderly individuals.
But even then, a property with detectors isn’t a guarantee they’re actually in working shape; if you’re staying at an Airbnb, it doesn’t hurt to give them a quick test to make sure they’re operational when you first arrive. (If they don’t work, it’s worth alerting the host as soon as possible so they might be able to remedy the situation.)
And if you’re wondering how to recognise a space with CO buildup, the CDC recommends watching out for signs of a “headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion.” Unfortunately, CO is both odourless and colourless, meaning you might easily confuse your headaches or dizziness as symptoms of something else (like, say, altitude sickness).
If you’re operating a fuel-based space heater, be sure there’s plenty of proper ventilation, too.