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Carbon Monoxide Detectors Required In All Homes

Alarms believed to help curtail avoidable death and injury from carbon monoxide, an odorless and invisible gas.

Beginning July 1 all new and existing homes in Milpitas, and the rest of California, must be equipped with a functioning carbon monoxide detector.

Carbon monoxide, or CO, is a silent killer, and tops the list of accidental poisoning deaths in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with almost 500 unintentional deaths and more than 1,700 suicides related to CO poisoning. In California, up to 40 residents die from carbon monoxide poisoning each year. It is also estimated that as many as 15,000 people in the nation are treated annually for CO poisoning and many go misdiagnosed or unreported.

According to Julie Linney, senior deputy fire marshal with the Santa Clara County Fire Department, California’s Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act is a win-win for homeowners and fire officials alike.

“If you have any gas appliances that are leaking or sending off too much carbon monoxide, an alarm will sound letting the residents know that they are in danger,” she said. “You cannot smell, taste or see carbon monoxide, so an alarm will alert the resident, who in turn can safely leave the home and call 911 for officials to come in and detect it.”

CO is produced when fossil fuels burn incompletely due to insufficient oxygen. Sources include common household appliances such as the furnace, water heater, gas kitchen range or cooktop, gas clothes dryer or a fireplace. Additional sources include space heaters, portable generators, charcoal grills, wood-burning stoves or a vehicle idling in a closed garage. Any malfunctions, cracks or leaks in these appliances could cause carbon monoxide to seep, according to Linney.

Exposure to CO results in symptoms similar to the flu, with nausea, headaches, dizziness, shortness of breath, vomiting and an unusually rapid heart rate, according to the CDC. But too much exposure can kill a person in a matter of minutes.

Proper placement of a carbon monoxide detector is important, according to Linney. She says installing the detector near all bedrooms is key to its functionality. The alarm should be located near all sleeping areas, so the alarm will sound and wake up anyone who might be sleeping when the carbon monoxide hits the air. She recommends having an alarm installed on each level of any multi-level home.

Homeowners can purchase a plug-in alarm for less than $30 at any home improvement store such as Home Depot or department stores such as Target or Sears. Homes can also be hardwired for a CO alarm, much like a smoke alarm, says Linney.

If the alarm sounds, residents should immediately move to fresh air and call 911, Linney said.

“You should open all the windows and doors immediately and leave the home immediately for fresh air and to call 911,” she said.

More information on how to protect yourself can be found on the Santa Clara County Fire Department’s website

Adelaide Chen July 05, 2011 at 06:38 AM
OK. You two. Enough.
Rajeev Madnawat August 12, 2011 at 05:06 AM
A $30 investment can save the life of a whole family. Furnace check ups help but can't replace a need for a CO detector because something might get stuck in furnace vents during storms that might lead to CO build up in the house or something might go wrong with the furnace without notice (it is impractical to get your furnace checked every week). I have always kept a working CO detector in my house, for years, because I have seen CO related deaths up close.
Robert August 12, 2011 at 10:14 PM
Please read the law. It is closer to $120 versus the $30 since they need to be placed in multiple places like fire detectors. This really has nothing to do with saving lives or cell phones would have been band a long time ago. My issue has little to do with individual cost and more to do with who sponsored this invasion of our houses. Home Depot and the Fire Fighters Unions were the leading contributors to the law and wrote the initial law. Home Dot according to the article is the place to go to get these units. Hopefully you can connect the dots. The fire fighter unions now have added an addition service call to every fire departments busy schedule. More services calls means for justification for more fire fighters. Face it most homeowners will not get the monitor but they will be forced to get them if they want to sell their house or if they draw a permit to work on your house. The government does not have the right to force you to buy anything and also pick the manufacturer of the item. People should accept a little bit of personal responsibility for their own safety and stop relying on the Government to do everything for them. Very soon, Government services will shrink because they will not have the fund and they will not be able to fulfill on all the promises they should never had made in the first place.
Rajeev Madnawat August 13, 2011 at 04:40 PM
I do agree to some extent that government's job should be limited to informing people about dangers of CO and suggesting ways to avoid those dangers (e.g., by checking furnaces, installing detectors). I said "to some extent" because I am concerned about kids who are also at risk (perhaps at a greater risk) but can't decide to install detectors on their own if their parents don't. Other than that, there are so many other dangers lurk around. I would not want the government to continue "forcing" me to do things.
Robert August 13, 2011 at 05:10 PM
Ok here is an issue that has not been raised. In this case the government and it’s corporate friends are using scare tactics to support themselves by performing a faulty “failure analysis”. Good engineering is always driven by looking at the “root cause” of a failure, not trying to fix a symptom of the root cause. Sick and dead people are a symptom of carbon monoxide. Most engineers will determine the root cause would be a faulty device that process natural gas into heat and that where this process occurs is the root of the problem. If the government really cared about the root cause of the problem then they would address the root cause. How about place a “monitoring device” at the root source and design in a auto shut off value to cut the natural gas supply when the gas reaches dangerous levels? If this was truly a National emergency then have all the manufacturers install these devises in all new devises. This does not address the installed units but the new monitor, when designed correctly, would be a simple install and can be done at any devise after the shut off valve. This is addresses the root cause of the problem and not the results of the problem. Plus it would eventually make all products safer and get the humans and government out of house. Design by government officials is like asking a whale to fly a 747.

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