Calif. state law to require CO detectors in homes

An average of 480 people across the nation each year die from carbon monoxide poisoning

By Kaci Poor
The Times-Standard

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A state law requiring all homeowners to install carbon monoxide detectors will go into effect July 1. The new law aims to prevent sickness and death as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning.

According to acting State Fire Marshal Tonya Hoover, an average of 480 people across the nation each year die from carbon monoxide poisoning. A recent study conducted by First Alert found that nearly nine out of 10 California households were not in compliance with the national recommendation for the number of carbon monoxide detectors required in a home.

"Carbon monoxide is a silent killer," Hoover said, adding that the colorless, odorless gas sends an average of 20,000 people to the emergency room.

The new law will require that carbon monoxide detectors be installed in all single-family homes with fossil fuel-burning appliances, a fireplace or attached garage. Other residential units — like multifamily rental properties — are required to have the detectors installed by Jan. 1, 2013.

The Eureka Fire Department won't be making door-to-door visits to check if people are complying with the law, Fire Marshal Rusty Goodlife said on Friday. But the department will check to make sure homes are in compliance if residents apply for a remodel permit or if firefighters are in a home for other official business.

"Fines start out at $50," said Goodlife, but for repeat offenders that could reach up to $50 per day until a detector is installed.

Supervisor James White of Shafer's Ace Hardware in Eureka said he has seen a big jump in the sale of carbon monoxide detectors at the store since the law was created. According to White, carbon monoxide detectors range in price from $20 for a basic detector to more than $40 for combined smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

"People can get very sick," said Goodlife on Friday. "Installing a carbon monoxide detector is a good way to prevent that."

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are flu-like and can include headache, nausea and dizziness. Prolonged exposure can lead to unconsciousness and death.

According to Goodlife, the Eureka Fire Department routinely gets calls from individuals who have experienced significant carbon monoxide exposure. Goodlife added that the department has even seen a few deaths.

Back in 2008, the Staples and Blockbuster Video stores in the Eureka Mall were evacuated and several employees hospitalized from carbon monoxide poisoning. The Eureka Fire Department discovered the gas had seeped into the stores from heaters left running nearby.

According to Goodlife, anyone experiencing symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning should evacuate the building immediately and call Pacific Gas and Electric or the fire department.

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