Is the Great State of California looking out for your best interest? You hear the commercials on the radio where the big box stores are pushing carbon monoxide alarms. They state, “There is a new California law requires all homes to have a carbon monoxide alarm”. Well yes that is true. This sounds great, right? Or are they giving homeowners and tenants a false sense of security? Let’s look at carbon monoxide and carbon monoxide alarms.
What is Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas that is slightly lighter than air. It is highly toxic to humans and animals in higher quantities, although it is also produced in normal animal metabolism in low quantities, and is thought to have some normal biological functions.
Where Does Carbon Monoxide Come From?
Carbon monoxide is a product of combustion. All gas fired appliances and engines produce some level of carbon monoxide.
Why Is Carbon Monoxide Bad For Us?
When a person is exposed to carbon monoxide it inhibits the bloods ability to carry oxygen. Different levels of carbon monoxide exposure have different effects on the body. When exposed to high levels of carbon monoxide a person may notice headaches after just an hour of exposer at levels of 200 parts per million (ppm). If a person is exposed to 3,000ppm death can occur in less than thirty minutes. On the other end of the spectrum is low-level exposure over extended periods of time.
Symptoms Of Low Level Carbon Monoxide Exposure:
The following ailments have linked to chronic low-level exposure to carbon monoxide:
- Chronic Fatigue
- Memory Loss
- Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
- Hair Loss
- Libido Loss
- Low Birth Weight
- Mood Changes
- Lou Gherig’s Disease
Summary of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act of 2012:
- California Senate Bill 183
- Effective July 1, 2011 – Single Family
- Effective January 1, 2013 – Multi Family
- Requires a UL 2034 CO Alarm on every level of a house and in sleeping areas
What is a UL2034 Carbon Monoxide Alarm?
The carbon monoxide poisoning prevention act of 2012 requires that Underwriters Laboratory (UL) approve all carbon monoxide alarms sold in California. UL states these products are to protect “Young and Health Adults” at prescribed alarm levels.
This sounds great but lets look at what is required by the UL for certification (UL2034 in Red):
- 1-4ppm Normal levels in human tissue
- 3-7ppm 6% increase in hospital admission for non elderly for asthma
- 9ppm Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Clean Air Act standard for out doors for 8 hour & maximum 3 times per year.
- 25ppm Maximum allowable in a Parking Garage per International Mechanical Code
- 30ppm 1st visual display on UL2034, must not alarm before 30 days!
- 35ppm The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommended 8 hour maximum work place exposure
- 35ppm EPA standard for out doors 1 hour maximum 1 time per year.
- 35ppm Many fire departments standard for SCBA.
- 50ppm OSHA recommended 8 hour maximum workplace exposure.
- 70ppm – 1st alarm of a UL2034 CO Alarm with in 1 to 4 hours.
- Healthy adults will show symptoms
- NIOSH & OSHA recommend evacuate the workplace
- UL2034 alarm must sound with in 30 to 60 minutes
- Headache with in 1-2 hours
- Maximum EPA levels for industrial flue exhaust
- UL2034 alarm must sound with in 15 minutes.
As you can see by looking at the alarm levels listed above in red there is no real “alarm” for low-level exposure and even at higher levels you must be exposed for extended periods of time before the alarm must sound.
So What Should You Do?
Do not solely rely on a UL2034 Carbon Monoxide alarms. You should install a low-level carbon monoxide detector at eye level near the sleeping areas of you home. If you don’t believe me here is what one of the leading UL2034 Alarm manufactures say in their instructions. Kidde-Nighthawk Model #KN-COPP-3 says: “Pregnant women, infants, children, senior citizens, persons with heart or respiratory problems and smokers may experience symptoms at lower levels of exposure than noted. Individuals with medical problems may consider using warning devices which provide audible and visual signals for carbon monoxide concentrations under 30ppm.”
So What Is The Difference?
Low Level Carbon Monoxide Detector:
- 5ppm – Visual Display
- 15-20ppm – 1st alarm level 5 min
- 35ppm – 2nd alarm level 5 min
- 70ppm – 3rd alarm level 30 seconds & cannot be silenced.
UL2034 Approved Carbon Monoxide Alarm:
- 30ppm – 1st Visual display must not alarm before 30 days.
- 70ppm – 1st alarm 1-4 hours
- 200ppm – 2nd alarm 30-60 minutes
- 400ppm – 3rd alarm within 15 minutes
What To Do If You Suspect Carbon Monoxide:
- Evacuate the house
- Call 911
- Have a certified technician repair the appliance.
CLICK HERE For more information on the Low-Level Carbon Monoxide Detectors that we offer.
Tyler Miner, Certified Carbon Monoxide & Combustion Analyst NCI#C11-273-09