If you own a single-family home with a fossil fuel burning appliance, heater, fireplace or an attached garage, by July 1 you must install a carbon monoxide detector to comply with a new California law.
Fossil fuels include gas, wood, petroleum and coal. Basically, this means everyone needs a carbon monoxide detector — although multifamily homes and apartments have until January 1, 2013 to comply with the new law.
Compliance with the new law will be checked during inspections of rental properties and during real estate transactions. If a housing unit is caught without a carbon monoxide detector — an infraction of the California Health and Safety Code — the owner will have 30 days to install the necessary detectors or they may be fined up to $200.
"There needs to be one on each level of a home," said Matt Cantor of Berkeley's Cantor Inspections. "I would encourage every homeowner to buy a unit and put it somewhere, not too far from sleeping areas."
Cantor said that only 25 percent of the homes he inspects have carbon monoxide detectors.
Landlords are responsible for installing detectors for their tenants, and may enter rental units to maintain dectectors, according to the law known as the Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act of 2010 (Senate Bill 183). Tenants are responsible for informing their landord if a detector is not working.
Although the first deadline to install detectors is rapidly approaching, Berkeley hardware stores said they haven't seen a rush on the devices.
"A couple of people came in who read about the law in the paper, and bought [detectors]," said Jerry Standley, the owner of on San Pablo Avenue. "But I think the majority of people don't know about it. A few who have asked me about it haven't bought one yet."
At on University Avenue, the pace is picking up. "I think the first of July there'll be a rush," said manager Quentin Moore, who had seven detectors left in stock on Tuesday afternoon with a shipment coming in Wednesday.
Prices for detectors in Berkeley range from $25 for the most basic device to $60 for the most complex. Detectors can be plugged into a wall outlet, or run on batteries while attached to a wall like a smoke detector.
Moore said installing carbon monoxide detectors is important because of the unique danger the gas poses. "You can't see it or smell it," he said. "It's a silent killer."
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. Inhaling a large quantity of the odorless gas can cause loss of consciousness and death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning occurs when the body begins to replace oxygen in the blood with CO. This blocks oxygen from getting into the body.
"These are really cheap devices that save lives," said Cantor. "There are a huge number of people who have carbon monoxide related illness who have been sick or fatigued and don't know why."
More than 400 Americans die from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning each year, according to the CDC, with death most common among Americans 65 and older. More than 20,000 people visit the emergency room each year and more than 4,000 are hospitalized due to CO poisoning.
The CDC recommends checking the batteries on your carbon monoxide detector when you adjust your clocks for daylight saving time each spring and fall.