Carbon Monoxide Detectors: Reminders and A New Bill in Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Senate is considering a bill requiring carbon monoxide detectors in homes and apartments with heaters or appliances that use fossil fuel, or that have fireplaces or attached garages.

A Pennsylvania mom whose daughter was killed by carbon monoxide in her sleep at 10 years of age, Dena Yeagley has been lobbying for the bill. She’s also been spreading the word that the preventable tragedy can be avoided with an inexpensive purchase of carbon monoxide detector.

Dena’s daughter, Abby, and her father, Andrew Heckman, were victims of toxic levels of carbon monoxide that leaked from a rusted flue pipe in the oil furnace. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that about 450 Americans die each year from the odorless gas, making carbon monoxide poisoning the leading cause of accidental poisoning in the U.S.

Symptoms of high carbon monoxide levels include fatigue, headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, and confusion.

Twenty-four states have statutes requiring carbon monoxide detectors in at least certain residential buildings; you can visit the National Conference of State Legislatures site to find out what restrictions your state has here. In Pennsylvania, the Senate Committee on Urban Affairs and Housing has been considering the bill, SB 920 (also known as the Carbon Monoxide Alarm Standards Act), since late March.

According to the CDC, “CO is found in combustion fumes, such as those produced by cars and trucks, small gasoline engines, stoves, lanterns, burning charcoal and wood, and gas ranges and heating systems. CO from these sources can build up in enclosed or semi-enclosed spaces.”

Buying the detectors is not expensive, and you may be interested to learn that apartment managers are not necessarily always responsible for the cost. For example, according to the New York City Department of Buildings, costs generally range upwards of $20, up to around $60 for ones with digital readouts and controls. You can buy the detectors at hardware stores and home centers. In the city of New York the owners are permitted to collect some reimbursement from the tenant if the house or apartment where you’re installing the detector is rented. Check with local laws to find out what the rules are for you, and if you’re in Pennsylvania, stay alert for the senate’s decision.

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