The odorless, invisible gas has been responsible for approximately 170 deaths per year in the United States, according to the Consumer Product and Safety Commission, plus thousands of brain injuries.
With the passage of a Senate bill identical to legislation he pushed in the state house, Representative Frank Farry (R-Bucks) hopes to arm homeowners with two reliable weapons, awareness and carbon monoxide detectors.
Act 121 of 2013, known as the Carbon Monoxide Alarm Standards Act, requires multifamily dwellings with a fossil fuel-burning heater/appliance, fireplace or an attached garage to be equipped with an operational, centrally located and approved carbon monoxide alarm.
“The risk of carbon monoxide poisoning carries deadly consequences in the nation and here in the Commonwealth,” said Farry. “This new law in Pennsylvania was designed to further protect homeowners and new homebuyers and renters against these damaging effects.”
The law does not take effect until June 2015, but that should not stop people from taking action now, said Farry. To highlight the effectiveness of a properly installed alarm, he handed out 100 carbon monoxide detectors provided by Kidde at a special awareness event at the Langhorne-Middletown Fire Company on Friday.
The law applies primarily to new homes, allowing existing homes to be grandfathered. However, when a home is sold, the seller will be required to check a box indicating whether or not a carbon monoxide alarm has been installed, similar to how radon testing is noted.
"This was a great Christmas gift when this bill was signed," said Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers. "Families will be able to enjoy future birthdays and graduations because they are protected."
Mary Smithson, a Bucks County resident, experienced the tragedy that can occur when a building is not properly equipped. She recently lost family members when their nursing home had an undetected leak.
"One morning they did not wake up," said Smithson. "It is a dangerous, debilitating disease, and it could have been prevented."
The legislation is in place, but now it is up to communities and homeowners to get fully educated on the dangers of the Silent Killer and how to maintain their alarms. The inhalation of carbon monoxide can prevent oxygen reaching the brain, causing significant cognitive damage to those who survive poisoning.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission:
- Make sure appliances are installed and operated according to the manufacturer's instructions and local building codes.Have the heating system professionally inspected and serviced annually to ensure proper operation. The inspector should also check chimneys and flues for blockages, corrosion, partial and complete disconnections, and loose connections.
- Never service fuel-burning appliances without proper knowledge, skill and tools. Always refer to the owners manual when performing minor adjustments or servicing fuel-burning equipment.
- Never operate a portable generator or any other gasoline engine-powered tool either in or near an enclosed space such as a garage, house, or other building. Even with open doors and windows, these spaces can trap CO and allow it to quickly build to lethal levels.
- Never use portable fuel-burning camping equipment inside a home, garage, vehicle or tent unless it is specifically designed for use in an enclosed space and provides instructions for safe use in an enclosed area.
- Never burn charcoal inside a home, garage, vehicle, or tent.
- Never leave a car running in an attached garage, even with the garage door open.
- Never use gas appliances such as ranges, ovens, or clothes dryers to heat your home.
- Never operate unvented fuel-burning appliances in any room where people are sleeping.
"So, if your son or daughter's birthday is on Jan. 15, every 15th of the month have them help you check the alarms," said Farry.
Farry urges families to have one alarm centrally located but in close proximity to the heater and one placed by the bedrooms. The devices typically last 5 to 7 years before requiring replacement.
“Homeowners shouldn’t wait for this bill to take effect,” Farry said. “You don’t know when carbon monoxide is all around you. You can’t hear or taste it. It’s odorless and colorless, when suffering the effects, quite often, you feel like you’re getting the flu. It’s important for all homes to be equipped with these life-saving devices.”