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Public Safety

New Law Requires Carbon-Monoxide Detectors

A law requiring that all California residences have working carbon-monoxide detectors goes into effect Friday. Senate Bill 183 signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last year aims to prevent deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning.

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The law affects any single-family homes and small apartments complexes (four units or less). Larger complexes are not affected until 2014.

San Diego Fire Deputy Chief Doug Perry said the detectors are the best way to protect families from carbon-monoxide poisoning.


"People need to remember that carbon monoxide is an invisible gas with no smell or taste," he said, "not to mention the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are often mistakenly diagnosed as the flu."

Elizabeth Bryan of San Diego can vouch for that. Her family had a close call with carbon-monoxide poisoning after a worker in her home disconnected their basement's detector.

"We all started getting sick and our doctor sent us home with a flu diagnosis," Bryan said. "I went into the basement and noticed the detector hanging disconnected from the ceiling. When I plugged it back in it started going insane."

When Bryan called her gas company, they had her and her family removed from the home. "They told me the amount of carbon monoxide in our basement was enough to kill my entire family," Bryan said.

J.C. Thomas, with San Diego Gas & Electric, said detectors should not keep people from making sure their appliances are working correctly. Stoves and water heaters can emit carbon monoxide.


Although fire departments cannot individually check every home to enforce the new law, the state is making detectors a requirement in new building and remodeling permits. Also, homes sold and new rental agreements require detectors as part of the contract.

Deputy Chief Perry said an average of 30 to 40 Californians die from carbon-monoxide poisoning annually, with an average of more than 700 nationwide. Perry added that 89 percent of homes in California do not have detectors.

Carbon monoxide detectors can be found in home improvement stores for about $20. Consumers can also find combination smoke/carbon monoxide detectors.

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