Carbon Monoxoide Detectors Now Mandatory In Homes
Carbon monoxide, a colorless and odorless gas which can kill those exposed slowly over the course of months and years, might be present in your home and you won’t know unless you have a carbon monoxide detector. As a result of the dangers of the gas and recent deaths related to carbon monoxide poisoning, it was made mandatory on February 22 for all homes in New York to have a detector in-stalled.
Lt. Anthony Mancuso, who heads the Fire Safety Education division with the FDNY, said many homes in Canarsie over 100 years old might be more susceptible to carbon monoxide poisoning if they still use the chimney as a source of energy for their home.
“Oil, wood and coal are all fossil fuels containing carbon monoxide which emits from chimneys and need a means of venting outside. If you have a working chimney, you have to have a detector on all floors because the fumes are running through the whole house,” he said.
Maintaining one’s chimney is another measure that should be taken. Residue inside pipes should be cleaned out regularly.
“Another thing we need to warn people of is to NOT use their gas oven to heat their home – that’s the most common way of contracting carbon monoxide poisoning,” he said.
Newer homes use dryer vents throughout the house, which are safer but can also pose danger if they are covered.
“Make sure all the vents in your home are open,” he said. “Especially with snow and other debris blowing into the air. Covered vents are very dangerous – when contained for a long amount of time, carbon monoxide travels through your home and has no where to go. We also advise using metal tubes to flow air through dryers.”
The law is difficult to enforce because the Fire Department can’t monitor private dwellings.
“If you live in or own a legal multiple-family dwelling, you or your landlord can obtain a letter to show the Fire Department upon inspection that says the detectors have been installed in the building,” he said.
City-owned buildings, such as those owned and operated by the New York City Housing Authority, are also required to have detectors and can be monitored through sporadic inspections and are crossenforced since Housing officials are entitled access to residents’ apartments.”
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include constant headaches, feeling more lethargic and tired than usual and various flu-like symptoms.
“It affects different people in different ways,” Mancuso said. “It’s something that in small amounts over time can be deadly. The rate that it works through the body depends on your height and weight.”
If your carbon monoxide detector goes off, Mancuso said to treat the response as if there were a fire in your home.
“Move to an area where there’s fresh air, call 9- 1-1 and don’t just shut the alarm and go to sleep,” he said. “Carbon monoxide will put you in a deeper sleep and it’s been shown to alter one’s mental state, so make sure you have the Fire Department conduct a reading of the levels of gas in your home once it’s been detected.”
According to Mancuso, installing carbon monoxide detectors became law in 2004, but it’s recently been enforced again because the devices have become more reliable.
“When people used house cleaners, they would get a false reading,” Mancuso said. “Nowadays, the detectors are more advanced. They also range in price – from $18 - $200. You can have one that announces there is carbon monoxide in the air and you can have one that alarms you when the gas is in the air of your basement even if you’re at the top floor of your home.”
Mancuso advises to always check the batteries on your detector, which can affect readings of the device. He also insists that a UL (Underwriter’s Lab) approved detector be purchased.
“A UL approved appliance or product ensures that it’s been tested for reliability and safety,” he said.
Even though there hasn’t been a significant increase in deaths relating to carbon monoxide poisoning, Mancuso said a lot more education on the issue has been requested due to various isolated incidents in which the gas was deadly.
For more information on carbon monoxide detectors, visit www.nyc.gov/fdny.