Maine CDC Press Release

December 7, 2009

New State Law May Have Had Life-Saving Impact

FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:
Richard E. Taylor
Senior Research and Planning Analyst
State Fire Marshal’s Office
(207) 626-3873

Andrew Smith, SM, ScD
State Toxicologist
Maine Center for Disease Control
(207) 287-5189

Newly required carbon monoxide detectors helps Mainers avoid poisoning

AUGUSTA – Officials from the Maine Office of the State Fire Marshal and the Maine State Toxicologist agree that the new State law requiring carbon monoxide detectors to be installed in rental properties has potentially saved lives.

On December 2, nine Augusta residents avoided poisoning when a newly installed alarm in their apartment building went off alerting occupants to a carbon monoxide hazard. A prompt call by a tenant and the quick response of the Augusta Fire Department led to the evacuation of the building, identification of the source of carbon monoxide and the assessment of residents’ health.

None of the nine residents were found to have been exposed to a dangerous level of this odorless, colorless, toxic gas.

The source of the carbon monoxide was a propane furnace that was not venting exhaust gases properly, said State Fire Marshal John Dean. “This is a situation that could easily have had a very tragic ending,” Dean said. “Instead, we have a great example of how a landlord’s prompt compliance with a new law requiring carbon monoxide detectors may have saved lives.”

The Orono Fire Department recently reported a similar incident. A faulty furnace caused a release of carbon monoxide in a large, older apartment complex. The newly installed detector sounded the alarm and all tenants were evacuated quickly, with no harmful exposure to the deadly gas.

The 124th Maine State Legislature enacted a law mandating installation of a carbon monoxide detector in each area giving access to bedrooms in each apartment in any building of multifamily occupancy. The new law also requires that carbon monoxide detectors be installed in any new building and whenever there is an addition to or restoration of an existing single-family dwelling that adds at least one bedroom to the unit.

“We followed up on dozens of carbon monoxide poisonings over the past year and nearly all of the cases were associated with not having a working detector in the home or apartment,” said State Toxicologist Andrew Smith, S.M., Sc.D. “This new law will save lives.”

The law went into effect on September 12 of this year and established a requirement effective October 31 that a person acquiring by sale a single-family or multi-apartment dwelling must certify at the closing that the home has a carbon monoxide detector.

For more information about the new law, visit http://www.maine.gov/dps/fmo/index.htm .

Maine CDC and the Maine Department of Public Safety want to remind property owners that all carbon monoxide poisonings are preventable. Carbon monoxide can kill quickly, but you cannot see, smell or taste it. Most carbon monoxide poisonings occur during the winter months.

The following tips are recommended to prevent becoming a victim of carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Do have your heating system, water heater and any other gas, oil, or coal burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.
  • Do install a battery-operated and electrical powered CO detector in your home and check or replace the battery when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall. If the detector sounds leave your home immediately and call 911.
  • Do seek prompt medical attention if you suspect CO poisoning and are feeling dizzy, light-headed, or nauseous.
  • Don't use a gas powered generator, charcoal grill, camp stove, or other gasoline or charcoal-burning device inside your home, basement, or garage or near a window or door. Generators should be operated more than 15 feet from the home.
  • Don't run a car or truck or any other gasoline powered motor inside a garage or other enclosed structure, even if you leave the door open. Over the past year, several poisonings were caused by engine repair work performed in a garage or barn.
  • Don't attempt to heat your house with a gas oven.