Carbon monoxide detector law unlikely
April 30, 2009
Steamboat Springs — Local officials say a state law passed earlier this year reduces the need to craft Routt County regulations requiring carbon monoxide detectors in living units.
The Lofgren and Johnson Families Carbon Monoxide Safety Act, which goes into effect July 1, requires that carbon monoxide alarms be installed on each floor of new and for-sale residential properties. Alarms also must be installed in rental properties that become vacant and will be rented again. The law is named after five Colorado residents who died of carbon monoxide poisoning in the past six months.
The idea of requiring carbon monoxide detection locally was raised earlier this year in response to a different tragedy. That ordinance was aimed at improving city regulations for secondary residential units after Steamboat Springs resident David Engle died of smoke inhalation in June 2008 in a converted garage apartment that lacked smoke detectors.
Rather than add a carbon monoxide detector requirement to an ordinance that would apply only to secondary units, the Steamboat Springs City Council asked city planning staff and the Routt County Regional Building Department to look at adding the requirements on a broader scale.
Carl Dunham, director of the Building Department, said he is in the process of writing local amendments for this year’s adoption of the building code, but he decided not to address carbon monoxide detection after the state law was passed by the Colorado General Assembly and signed by Gov. Bill Ritter.
“It’s so comprehensive in the state legislation that it seemed superfluous to me,” said Dunham, who noted that the City Council or the Routt County Board of Commissioners still could ask him to add a carbon monoxide monitor requirement.
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“This past year, we tragically lost a number of people to carbon monoxide poisoning,” Ritter said last month while signing the act in Denver. “This legislation will help prevent additional losses by simply having monitors installed in homes.”
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless and nonirritating gas that causes fatigue and nausea, and it can be fatal within minutes of exposure. It is created when a fuel source – propane, kerosene, wood or gas, among others – does not fully burn. The carbon monoxide replaces oxygen in the air, leading to sickness and suffocation.
Last year, Major Heating Vice President Bob Major said poorly installed and maintained equipment, along with blocked exhaust routes, are the biggest risk factors he sees in Steamboat homes. About 83 percent of Colorado single-family homes use a system that emits carbon monoxide as a major heat source, according to the governor’s office.
Alarms can be purchased in Steamboat for about $20 to $60 at stores such as Ace at the Curve and Wal-Mart. The more expensive versions feature digital readouts and often can detect smoke, as well. Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue responds to about 50 carbon monoxide alarms a year, public education coordinator Deb Funston said last month, but there have been no deaths blamed on carbon monoxide in several years.