New Act will Prevent 'Silent Killer' in Our Homes

The Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act of 2010 goes into effect July 1, requiring installation in homes so it will not claim more victims.

According to the American Medical Association, carbon monoxide is the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in the United States.  The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that carbon monoxide – the “silent killer” – kills approximately 500 people each year and injures another 20,000 people nationwide.

Carbon monoxide is emitted in small amounts from heaters, fireplaces, furnaces and other appliances, but, if working improperly, those appliances can slowly and subtly produce toxic amounts. 

Depending on the exposure, carbon monoxide poisoning can have either short term or long term effect and can include mild acute poisoning such as lightheadedness, confusion, headaches, vertigo, and flu-like effects; larger exposures can lead to significant toxicity of the central nervous system and heart, and even death.

Being colorless, odorless, tasteless and initially non-irritating, it is very difficult for people to detect.  To prevent such tragic consequences, California signed into law The Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act of 2010 (SB 183) in May 2010. 

Beginning July 1, this law will go into effect, requiring homeowners to install carbon monoxide detector in every "dwelling unit intended for human occupancy."  

The applicable time periods are as follows:

  1. All existing single family homes with fossil fuel burning heater or appliance, fireplace, or an attached garage must install the CO detectors by July 1.
  2. Owners of multi-family leased or rental dwellings, such as apartment buildings, must install the co detectors by January 1, 2013.  

The following language comes packaged with carbon monoxide (CO) detectors:

“For minimum security, a CO Alarm should be centrally located outside of each separate sleeping area n the immediate vicinity of the bedrooms.  The Alarm should be located at least 6 inches (152mm) from all exterior walls and at least 3 feet (0.9 meters) from supply or return vents.”  

Noncompliance can be punishable by a maximum of $200 for each offene if the owner fails to correct the problem 30 days after receiving notice to correct. 

Currently, only 10 percent off households have the device, which typically costs $20-$30, is easy to install and can be found in most home improvement and hardware stores.   

Similar to, but not the same as the smoke detectors, this is a small investment that really can help save your life and the lives of your loved ones!  

For Home Sellers and Buyers - The Real Estate Transfer Disclosure Statement has been updated to require sellers to disclose whether there are Carbon Monoxide Device(s) in the property. 

For more information on carbon monoxide, how to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, CO poisoning symptoms and safety guidelines, please click for Information on Carbon Monoxide on CA Fire website  or visit the CAL FIRE Web site at www.fire.ca.gov  

(*) Disclaimer - The article is intended to provide general information on the subject.  Readers who require specific advice should consult experts in the area of interest.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Pamela Griffith Pond June 08, 2011 at 06:03 PM
Thanks for this, Sylvia. A fire just might wake folks up without an alarm, but carbon monoxide won't. Every home should have a CO alarm. Homes that have old, gas wall heaters might need more than one, since airflow between parts of the house can be cut off by closed doors.
Steve B June 09, 2011 at 04:34 AM
I have a modern home with a properly-installed forced-air, gas heater. That said, there is pretty much ZERO chance of CO poisoning. But, to keep my anxious wife happy I installed a CO detector. While on a business trip, it went off. She opened all the windows on a cold night, turned off the heater, alerted me, my in-laws, my family, etc. The rest of the night was spent freezing with our infant children under a dozen blankets on a cold, winter night. PG&E came out the next day or day after (I was still out of town) and checked for CO. Guess what?!?! The heater was friggin' perfect, there's no garsh damn CO in the house, and he told us that CO detectors, even our $65 one, are prone to false alarms!!! Also, he said our furnace was a really nice one and installed very well. I'm confident that the manufacturers of CO alarms paid a few million in lobby dollars to get this law passed and will make hundreds of millions in profits. A classic failure in our government and our own ability to judge reality vs. scare tactics. These piece of crap CO alarms caused quite a scare, cost a lot of money, and shook our family's ability to go to sleep peacefully for NO REASON AT ALL! Now, we have the ol' "Boy who cried wolf" syndrome and I have no desire to install a CO alarm. My advice, call a professional such as PG&E or a HVAC contractor to examine your house- that's concrete information that will help you sleep at night and keep you safer than any crappy, erroneous, CO alarm.
Sylvia Barry June 09, 2011 at 03:23 PM
Steve - Great advice on calling professionals such as PG&E and HVAC contractor to come and inspect the house to make sure all the equipments are working correctly. Thanks for the reminder! However, I would rather err on the cautious side and have the CO detectors installed as I have read a few too many news about needless deaths due to carbon monoxide poisoning to not be extra careful. One thing about the new energy construction is also how airtight it can be. Something to consider. Thank you, Pam – I thought it was something worth mentioning and hopefully help explain why they want us to do that.
Margaret B June 09, 2011 at 03:26 PM
Thanks for the article, Sylvia. We have had a carbon monoxide detector in our house for over ten years. Although we have never had an incident, we have also never had a false alarm. My husband installed it after we moved into our house, and we discovered (after it passed the inspection!) that the old furnace was damaged and leaked carbon monoxide. Of course we had it replaced right away. It seems to me that having a detector is especially important for people with older furnaces. Not everyone can afford to have brand new equipment, may live in a rental, or may have some alternate heat source that has risks. Installing carbon monoxide detectors is a sensible, low cost precaution.
Steve B June 20, 2011 at 10:03 PM
Hi Margaret, You missed my main point. CO detectors are prone to faults, even the PG&E guy told me so. Mandating them in every home is not only going to cause problems with false alarms and a false sense of security, but it is fiscally irresponsible. This is one more example of our out-of-control government and its infamous "unfunded mandates." This is why I suspect the manufacturers of CO detectors lobbied to make this law, more profits for them and not a penny from the government to support it. If anything is mandated, it should be a bi-annual PROFESSIONAL inspection of homes with fuel-burning equipment. I think in your case, the CO was detectable, but not a problem. OSHA allows up to 50ppm, other agencies as low as 25ppm. Up to 10ppm is allowed in SCUBA air, and detectable levels are in the 1-2.5ppm range. In plain English, you are allowed 10 to 20 times more CO in air than detectable and it is considered safe, hence the hysteria. Safe, fun, happy, and prosperous wishes, Steve
Frank Keenan June 28, 2011 at 03:16 AM
Thanks for the reminder, Sylvia! I got mine installed this weekend. I replaced an existing smoke alarm with a combination smoke - CO alarm made by Kidde. It's hardwired with battery back up. Pretty cool. Like insurance, I hope I never need it.
Sylvia Barry July 01, 2011 at 02:22 AM
To view information from the California Environmental Protection Agency regarding this new law and the dangers of carbon monoxide, please click http://www.arb.ca.gov/research/indoor/combustion.htm For further questions regarding the law, please contact the State Housing Law Program at (916) 445-9471. Note that the CO detectors/alarms must be those approved by the California Office of the State Fire Marshall. For a list of CO alarms and detectors approved by the State Fire Marshall's Office, please click here http://osfm.fire.ca.gov/licensinglistings/licenselisting_bml_searchcotest.php
Sylvia Barry December 31, 2011 at 07:52 AM
Rob Spinosa, of RPM Mortgage in Mill Valley, has the following comment on my post on another forum: "I am adding to this thread a "heads up" for anyone who may be reading and thinking about any type of home financing in 2012 (refinancing or listing home for sale). Please make sure to have a CO detector installed in your home prior to getting an appraisal. Without the detectors, some appraisers will indicate that the appraisal report is provided "subject to completion" and no "as is," with the installation of detector(s) being the item to be completed. Certainly it's not hard to install the detectors, but if the appraisal comes back "subject to" it may require a costly and time consuming reinspection --- something that can and should easily be avoided."
Edwin Drake December 31, 2011 at 09:14 AM
Steve B is right: 500 deaths a year across the United States is a crazy small amount of chance. Just check your heaters and stoves and flues and make sure everything is in proper working order. That's better advice than installing these battery dependent, fear mongering, misguided, trade-group promoted, hockey pucks. Seriously, if you're worried about CO poisoning then call out the HVAC people and have them look over your home. That's money better spent.
Sylvia Barry December 31, 2011 at 05:31 PM
Hi Edwin - Here is a recent article about a 'Close Call Serves as Carbon Monoxide Lesson'. I personally would rather spend $30+/- for another layer of protection. My family is too important to me. http://novato.patch.com/articles/close-call-serves-as-carbon-monoxide-lesson On another note, one of my San Rafael listings just had a resale inspection by City of San Rafael Building department. The only item they called out is a missing CO2 detector which my client will need to install prior to close of escrow.
Andrew randolph November 13, 2012 at 12:21 AM
thanks for this, amazing how the simplest of things can help so much
Sylvia Barry November 13, 2012 at 02:52 AM
Novato Fire District announced week of November 11-17 is Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week. Please read NFD's article stressing the importance of CO2 Detector and what to do when you suspect there is danger of CO2 poisoning: http://novato.patch.com/announcements/carbon-monoxide-awareness-week
Sara November 13, 2012 at 11:37 PM
Regarding false positives: It is important to maintain your alarm! Many of the fire department's false alarms are actually the detector working as it should, but the homeowner hasn't read up on how to actually own the unit. Older ones have collection cartridges that need to be aired out every few months & can beep on low battery. Newer ones have a code they flash on alarm. That code can tell you if the alarm is because your family is in danger or the unit needs some sort of maintenance. Finally, it's important (and responsible) to know what can cause triggers. Hydrogen Sulfide comes to mind (esp. if you are on well water), but so do false triggers such as alcohol burners (think buffet table heat cans). Attached garages or idling too close to the house can also produce transitory levels high enough to trigger the alarm that dissipate before the FD arrives. I guess the question comes down to your conscience: could you live with the chance that someone you love died because you wouldn't put in a $35 alarm and learn how to use & maintain it?


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