Dear Dr. Levister: I’ve had smoke detectors in my home for years, why should I install a carbon monoxide detector? S.C.
Dear S.C.: If you don't have a carbon-monoxide detector yet, it’s time to get one. A new law requiring the devices in single-family homes went into effect in July 2011. The detectors can be real life-savers.
Smoke detectors have been mandatory in residences for three decades, but now there's a new requirement for single-family homes in California, carbon monoxide detectors.
The new state building code is designed to protect you from carbon monoxide gas, which kills 500 people a year and sickens 20,000 others. It's dubbed the "silent killer."
It's colorless, odorless, and tasteless. So unless you actually see visible smoke that often occurs with carbon monoxide, you won't know.
Carbon monoxide poisoning is usually the result of improper use or malfunction of heating devices.
Symptoms include headache, nausea, vomiting and fatigue.
The sound from an activated detector is designed to warn you before you experience any of it.
Unfortunately, there have been a number of deaths this year that have been linked to poverty, rather than negligence.
People, who have failed to pay their electricity bills on time and have had their power supply cut off, have turned to diesel-powered generators and gas-powered generators to generate electricity for the home. According to government agencies, they have been trying to reduce people's dependence on gas-powered generators, which are often the main culprit in carbon monoxide poisoning deaths, by offering people bill payment assistance programs. Persons who have trouble paying their gas and electricity bills can avail themselves of these programs, to avoid having their power supply cut off.
Besides, state officials conduct frequent inspections to reduce the risk of entire households being wiped out from carbon monoxide exposure.
You still need to use common sense: things like not using a barbecue inside, not using your oven to heat your home, making sure you service all your equipment that produces heat.
You can find the detectors at most hardware stores like Home Depot. They range in price from about $15 to $50. A lot of them come combined with smoke detectors.
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