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NC5 Investigates: An Alarming Failure

Smoke-Detector Maker Aims To Kill Legislation

State Rep. Mike Turner State Rep. Mike Turner

After a NewsChannel 5 investigation exposed problems with ionization smoke detectors, one state lawmaker decided it was time to ban those detectors here in Tennessee.

But now, state Rep. Mike Turner is finding that it's a lot easier said than done.

Consumer investigator Jennifer Kraus has been following his bill at the legislature and found that at least one smoke detector manufacturer does not want Turner's bill to become law.

That company is now spending a whole lot of money to keep it from happening which is something some say is putting lives on the line.

When Turner, a Democrat from Nashville, went before the House industrial impact subcommittee today to talk about his proposed legislation, he told lawmakers, "I truly believe in this."

Turner, who is also a longtime Metro firefighter, says his bill will save countless lives. It would require smoke detectors that studies show do the best job actually detecting smoke.

But at least one smoke detector manufacturer, Kidde, is doing all it can to kill Turner's bill.

John Andres, the company's Engineering Director, told the subcommittee, "We want the public protected."

Yet, Mike Turner knows they're here for a fight.

"We've got all these high-powered lobbyists and all these manufacturers coming in here, " Turner adds.

Kidde has hired two well-known lobbyists who sources say have been working behind the scenes urging lawmakers to reject Turner's bill, legislation that would ban the most common type of smoke detectors, known as ionization detectors.

Turner isn't deterred. He says, "This bill is important to me and I am convinced that it's the right way."

But the smoke detector maker sent a team from North Carolina to today's subcommittee meeting and told lawmakers that ionization detectors can make a difference in fires with big flames.

John Andres explained, "In a flaming fire, seconds count. Flames can block your escape, create dangerous levels of heat and carbon monoxide."

But what the company representative failed to tell lawmakers was that studies show ionization detectors often fail to go off in smoky fires -- the kind that kills people as they sleep.

Turner made a point of pointing that out to the subcommittee, telling them, "He wouldn't say that cause that would hurt his sales. This is about sales."

Turner believes the manufacturers are more concerned about making money than saving lives.

And the company even admitted during the hearing that it had spent millions of dollars in the research and development of several new ionization detectors that it's trying to get on the market -- and if Turner's bill passes, the money they've spent would be lost.

Turner then told lawmakers, that says it all.

And he went on to make this comparison, "This is like the cigarette companies used to say tobacco didn't cause cancer, smoking didn't cause cancer and they defended their product. We have a similar situation here. We've got outdated technology that does not work.

Turner's bill calls for ionization detectors to eventually be phased out in Tennessee and replaced by photoelectric and dual technology detectors.

He knows he's in for a fight and says he's ready. But he also says he doesn't have lobbyists working for him like the manufacturer does. So he's asking the public to contact the lawmakers on the committee and urge them to support his bill. He believes that's what it will take.

If you'd like to see the list of lawmakers and find out how you can contact them to voice your support for Turner's smoke detector legislation also known as House Bill 2528, just click here.

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