KENT, WASH. -- Among the slew of new laws that take effect New Year's Day is one aimed at saving lives by requiring carbon monoxide detector in apartments, condos, and even single family homes.
The alarms are built to detect the colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that is emitted from many types of combustion. According to the EPA, sources can included unvented kerosene and gas space heaters; leaking chimneys and furnaces; back-drafting from furnaces, gas water heaters, wood stoves, and fireplaces; and gas stoves.
Detectors are already required for all new construction in the state. The next phase of the law covers older structures.
In the wake of the Hanukkah Eve windstorm in December 2006, millions were without power; after days in the dark, they became desperate to warm up.
"A lot of people who live in this area felt they had no alternative but to bring something into their home to either cook or to heat with," said Captain Kyle Ohashi of the Kent Fire Department.
Kent was one of the hardest hit areas. Newly settled immigrants, not used to modern building construction, thought it would be safe to bring charcoal grills into their apartments. It was a bad mistake. At one complex 60 people were sickened.
"A lot of people were suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning that night," Ohashi said.
Carbon monoxide detectors can run from $20 and up, and some are combined with smoke alarms. Since mounting instructions vary by manufacturer, Ohashi recommended that buyers follow the directions closely.
The City of Seattle has an information sheet that answers some specific questions about the new law.