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Carbon Monoxide Detectors Must Be Installed by Jan. 1, 2013

Release Date: 12/19/2012 12:45:00 PM

CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING AND DETECTORS

Beginning January 1, 2011, WA State law required that carbon monoxide detectors be installed in all newly constructed single family homes and multi-family residences. By January 1, 2013, RCW 19.27.530 requires that carbon monoxide (CO) detectors must be installed in most existing residential occupancies. Landlords must install CO detectors outside each separate sleeping area in the immediate vicinity of the bedroom and on each level of the residence.

There are four categories of exceptions to this requirement for CO detector installations: motels, hotels, college dormitories and DSHS-licensed boarding homes or residential treatment facilities. However, these exceptions must meet all of the following criteria. They must have sleeping areas which (a) do not themselves contain a fuel-burning appliance or fuel-burning fireplace and are not adjacent to a room containing those items; (b) do not have an attached garage; (c) and do not have connections by duct work or ventilation shafts with a supply or return register to any room containing a fuel-burning appliance, fuel-burning fireplace or an attached garage. In addition, the building must have a common area with a CO alarm system.

RCW 19.27.530 does not require homeowners living in homes purchased prior to July 26, 2009 to install CO detectors until they sell the home. (See also Substitute Senate Bill 6472). However, given that CO detectors save lives by alerting residents to the presence of deadly carbon monoxide concentrations in the home, it is wise for homeowners to make this relatively inexpensive investment in the health and well-being of their family.

Single station (one unit operated by battery or electricity) CO detectors must comply with standard UL 2034. Once installed, renters are responsible to keep the CO units operational with fresh batteries. Landlords must replace CO alarms every five to seven years as per the manufacturer’s instructions.

BACKGROUND:
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a poison that cannot be detected by sight or smell. It is often referred to as “the silent killer” because victims cannot perceive the presence of the gas in their home.

CO is produced by the incomplete combustion from fossil-fuel burning devices, e.g. gas ranges, ovens or clothes dryers, gas or oil furnaces, water heaters, fireplaces, wood-burning stoves, or car exhaust from attached garages. If a home is properly vented and all appliances are functioning properly, there is not a build-up of CO in the home. However, if the home is so well insulated that it traps CO, a chimney is blocked by leaves or a bird’s nest, or a furnace heat exchanger is cracked, then carbon monoxide concentrations can build up inside the home.

Carbon monoxide is attracted to hemoglobin in the bloodstream and quickly displaces the oxygen needed to keep vital organs functioning. When CO is in the air, it accumulates in the blood and forms the toxic compound known as carboxyhemoglobin (COHb). As the levels of COHb increase, those in the home exhibit symptoms similar to flu with headaches, nausea, dizziness, and confusion. If the levels of COHb reach critical levels, there is loss of consciousness, brain damage and eventually, death. There can be life-changing long-term neurological problems caused by significant exposure to carbon monoxide.

While everyone is at risk from CO exposure, it is particularly dangerous for pregnant women and their unborn child, infants, elderly, and persons with lung or heart problems.

Low-levels of exposure over long periods of time can be very debilitating. High levels of exposure over a relatively short period of time can be deadly.

CO detectors save lives and prevent long-term medical problems associated with carbon monoxide poisoning.

CO detectors typically cost between $25 and $50. It is a good idea to select a CO detector that has an LED monitor screen displaying the parts per million of CO to surrounding air. This helps you better determine the level of CO exposure when the alarm sounds.

CO detectors, depending on their style, can be plugged into ordinary wall sockets or screwed into the ceiling or wall according to manufacturer’s suggestions. They should not be installed closer than 20 feet to a furnace.

It is important to read the manufacturer’s instructions for each type of CO detector to understand how the unit operates and what the limitations may be. As of December 2012, 27 states in the US have legislation regarding CO alarms.

Should the CO detector sound an alarm, go outside to fresh air and call 9-1-1. If you have an LED monitor and the numbers are relatively low, call your local power company instead of 9-1-1 as a first response. Have the family stay outside in fresh air or at a neighbor’s home while waiting for assistance.

View the Carbon Monoxide Matrix (PDF 60KB)

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