Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning is a
subject that people know very little about and due to recent legislation is
quickly becoming a topic of interest for New York City building owners and
In North America, CO is the cause of
as many as 70,000 emergency room visits a year and thousands of deaths. Up
to 30 per cent of survivors of severe poisoning are left with disabling
psychological and neurological symptoms, which sometimes last for years. In
early January of 2004, the New York Fire Department issued a press release
entitled New York City Fire Department Reminds All New Yorkers of the
Dangers of Carbon Monoxide. This press release relayed the recent CO
deaths of a four-year-old girl and her father who died in the Bronx of CO
poisoning. Two other family members were critically injured.
Under the State Fire Prevention and
Building Code, which governs all areas of the state except NYC, CO alarms
must be installed and maintained in all newly constructed homes and
condominiums, and all homes offered for sale. The alarms are required to be
installed in the immediate vicinity of a bedroom or bedrooms on the lowest
floor level of the dwelling unit. The State OFPC strongly recommends the
installation of additional CO alarms, including one outside of a furnace
room and others, as necessary, to ensure an alarm will be heard in all areas
of the home. Although the current State Code does not cover existing
dwelling or any residences in New York City, all New Yorkers are encourage
to install CO alarms as a safety precaution. However, there is legislation
requiring the installation of CO detectors in various multiple dwellings and
other rental premises where the dwelling unit contains or is serviced by a
gas-fueled or an oil-fueled appliance or device. This bill once passes would
be know as "Daniel's Law" and is named in honor of Daniel J. Watson of
Westchester who in January 2003 died in his apartment of CO intoxication.
- What Is Carbon Monoxide?
- Carbon Monoxide is produced by
the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels including gas, oil, coal and
wood used in boilers, engines, oil burners, gas fires, water heaters,
solid fuel appliances such as wood burning stoves, fireplaces and open
fires. CO has no taste, smell or color and is lighter than air. Dangerous
amounts of CO can accumulate as a result of poor equipment installation,
poor maintenance of equipment, failure or damage to appliances or when
rooms are poorly ventilated and CO is unable to escape.
Most people associate CO with winter
time heating problems, however, any fuel-burning appliance that is not
adequately vented and maintained can be a potential source of CO.
- What Are the Effects Of CO?
- Carbon monoxide enters the body
through inhalation and inhibits the blood's ability to carry oxygen to
body tissues including vital organs such as the heart and brain.
Low to moderate levels of CO
poisoning can be confused with flu symptoms, food poisoning or other
illnesses and can have a long term health risk if left unattended. Symptoms
include shortness of breath, mild nausea, dizziness and headaches. High
levels of exposure can be fatal causing death in minutes. Recently, studies
have been performed to show that chronic CO poisoning can result in long
term, residual effects on our bodies.
- Minimizing Ones Exposure
- There are certain steps that you
can take to minimize CO exposure.
1. At the beginning of every
heating season, have a trained professional check all fuel-burning
appliances such as oil and gas furnaces, gas water heaters, gas ranges and
ovens, gas dryers, gas or kerosene space heaters, fire places and wood
2. Keep chimneys and flues clean
especially at the base were soot can accumulate and cause a blockage.
3. Provide chimney caps to prevent
animals from falling into the chimney or building nests that can disrupt
4. Do not attempt to heat your
home with the oven or stove.
5. Never use a charcoal grill
6. Never allow oneís vehicle to
idle in the garage and never startup gasoline powered equipment such as
snow blowers, lawnmowers, chain saws or generators inside.
7. Check the color of the
appliance flame. If the flame is orange there is a problem. However, a
blue flame does not necessarily mean that itís safe. Have the appliances
8. Make certain that there is
9. Make sure there is a working
low level carbon monoxide detector in the living area of every floor or
apartment to provide an early warning of the presents of carbon monoxide.
If you are a building owner or
manager, your staff should be performing statutory and routine maintenance
inspections of all equipment. Additionally, a log should be maintained
describing any services performed (e.g. battery replacements, replaced
units, etc.) Tenants should be provided with information on how to self-test
each CO detector, identify damaged equipment warning signs and the
procedures to follow in the event of CO exposure. But beware, even if you
have taken these steps, you may still be liable if one of your tenants
becomes ill or worse dies from exposure to CO.
For your own and your tenantís peace
of mind, the best way to reduce CO exposure liabilities is to provide each
tenant with a combination carbon monoxide and smoke detector for each room.