Carbon Monoxide – The Silent Killer

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As parents, we do everything that we possibly can to keep our children safe. Unfortunately, there are times when the most dangerous things can go unnoticed. California has passed a law to help keep families protected from one such danger: carbon monoxide (CO). Effective July 1st, 2011, it is mandatory for all single-family California homes to install CO detectors in their homes. Although it may not be a law in all states, having a CO detector in your home can help you to keep your family safe.

What is it?

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that replaces oxygen in the lungs when it is inhaled. The gas is extremely toxic in humans, causing sudden illness and death.

Where is it found?

Possible sources of carbon monoxide in a home can include heaters, fireplaces, furnaces, and many types of appliances and cooking devices. It can also be found in fumes produced by cars and trucks as well as gasoline run engines. The fumes can build up in enclosed spaces in your home, endangering anyone who breathes in the contaminated air in these spaces.

According to the Center for Disease Control, unintentional carbon monoxide (CO) exposure accounts for an estimated 15,000 emergency department visits and 500 unintentional deaths in the United States each year. This toxic gas has been dubbed the "silent killer" due to its invisible appearance. 

How to Protect Your Family

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offer several pointers on how to keep your family safe from the dangers of CO: 

1. Make sure your heating system, water heater and any other gas, oil, or coal burning appliances are serviced by a qualified technician every year.

2. Do not use portable flameless chemical heaters (catalytic) indoors. Although these heaters don’t have a flame, they burn gas and can cause CO to build up inside your home, cabin, or camper.

3.If you smell an odor from your gas refrigerator’s cooling unit have an expert service it. An odor from the cooling unit of your gas refrigerator can mean you have a defect in the cooling unit. It could also be giving off CO.

4. When purchasing gas equipment, buy only equipment carrying the seal of a national testing agency, such as the American Gas Association or Underwriters’ Laboratories.

5. Install a battery-operated CO detector in your home and check or replace the battery when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall.

California Carbon Monoxide Law

On Friday July 1st, 2011 all single family California homes with an attached garage or fossil fuel source will be required to install a carbon monoxide detector. Owners of multi-family leased or rental dwellings, such as apartment buildings, have until January 1, 2013 to comply with the law. The Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act was first introduced in 2009 by Senator Alan Lowenthal and was signed by Arnold Schwarzenegger last year. 

Results of a recent study showed that almost 9 out of 10 California homes didn’t have a CO detector installed. That is a huge percentage of unprotected homes! “Carbon monoxide is a silent killer, each year claiming the lives of an average of 480 people,” said Acting State Fire Marshal Tonya Hoover. “And sending more than 20,000 people to emergency rooms across the nation.” The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection recommends installing a CO detector on every floor and outside every sleeping area of your home. 

Have you installed your carbon monoxide detectors yet?

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