After 3 emergencies, Schaumburg requiring carbon monoxide alarms in hookah lounges

  • Arabian Nights Hookah Lounge is one of Schaumburg's six hookah lounges that soon will be required to install carbon monoxide alarms. The requirement comes on the heels of paramedics' responding to medical calls caused by excessive carbon monoxide levels at three lounges last year.

      Arabian Nights Hookah Lounge is one of Schaumburg's six hookah lounges that soon will be required to install carbon monoxide alarms. The requirement comes on the heels of paramedics' responding to medical calls caused by excessive carbon monoxide levels at three lounges last year. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 1/30/2019 3:58 PM

Schaumburg will require alarm systems at all six of the village's hookah lounges that would automatically activate their ventilation systems when carbon monoxide levels exceed the legal limit.

Village trustees approved the measure this month, and Fire Chief Jim Walters said his department is drafting a notification letter to be sent to the business owners.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The move comes after medical emergencies occurred last year due to excessive carbon monoxide levels at three different hookah lounges. The three calls involved only one person each, two of whom were taken to a hospital. All three recovered.

The village's aim is to have alarm systems installed within 90 days of notification, though officials are willing to work with businesses on that time frame, Walters said.

Particularly in the era of indoor smoking bans, hookah lounges are unique among nonindustrial businesses in having a need for ventilation systems triggered by carbon monoxide detectors.

"Nobody else is burning charcoal indoors," Walters said with a laugh.

The Environmental Protection Agency has defined the highest acceptable level of carbon monoxide in the air at 35 parts per million. During last year's three medical calls to hookah lounges, carbon monoxide levels were measured at about 170 parts per million, officials said.

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After one of the emergency calls, the manager of the business told fire officials the ventilation system had been turned off because it tended to dry out the air too much.

Schaumburg officials say the required alarms will ensure ventilation systems are on when needed, without leaving that to the discretion of an employee.

The estimated cost of the alarms is about $1,500, Walters said. Violations will be handled by the village's adjudication system, which can issue fines from $100 to $50,000, based on the level and length of noncompliance.

The village has received no feedback or criticism of the law from hookah lounge owners since it was proposed, Walters said.

Schaumburg began to permit hookah lounges in 2006, the same year it became among the first Illinois communities to ban indoor smoking.

The apparently contradictory policy changes were handled by prohibiting alcohol and limiting food and entertainment options at hookah lounges -- measures aimed at reducing the businesses' appeal to nonsmokers.

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