Big Increases in Carbon Monoxide Detector Use Credited to Landlords and State Law

November 16, 2011

In just one year, the percentage of rental units with a carbon monoxide detector nearly doubled, jumping from 34 percent in 2009 to 58 percent in 2010, according to officials from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC).The dramatic increase can be credited in large part to property owners complying with a 2009 state law requiring carbon monoxide detectors in all rental units, in addition to new single family homes, and existing homes whenever a property transfer occurs.

The data, collected from a statewide survey, also indicate that the overall percentage of Maine households with carbon monoxide detectors has been steadily increasing over several years, from 35 percent in 2004 to 54 percent in 2010. Despite these increases, nearly one in two homes is without a detector, leaving its residents without adequate protection against carbon monoxide poisoning.

“The good news is that the number of homes with carbon monoxide detectors is moving in the right direction,” said Maine CDC director, Dr. Sheila Pinette. “But we need to do better. Having an electric carbon monoxide detector with a battery backup near where people sleep can save lives and is especially important in cold weather when heating your home.”

More than two-thirds of cases of carbon monoxide poisoning occur between November and March in Maine, most of them due to malfunctioning heating systems or blocked flues and vents. In the overwhelming majority of cases, there were no carbon monoxide detectors present in the home.

“Detectors are extremely important if carbon monoxide begins to build up in your home,” explained state toxicologist, Andrew Smith, ScD. “But it is even more important to keep carbon monoxide from ever building up in your home."

Anything that burns fuel, such as an oil or propane boiler or wood stove, produces carbon monoxide. When these appliances are not properly maintained or vented, carbon monoxide can build up to dangerous levels inside a home without anyone noticing. Carbon monoxide cannot be seen, smelled or tasted, and can be lethal, Smith said.

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