County warns of carbon monoxide dangers
Wednesday, 28 November 2012 13:34

Officials urge installation of CO alarms

by Nicole Rodman

    As residents across the region begin turning on their heat for the winter, Baltimore County officials would like to remind residents to be aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.
    An odorless, colorless, tasteless gas, CO is most commonly the result of incomplete combustion.
    The deadly gas is often a byproduct of burning fuels such as oil, gas, coal or wood.
    It can also be produced by many common household appliances such as clothes dryers, water heaters, space heaters, ovens or furnaces.
    CO poisons the body by depriving it of oxygen. Once inhaled, CO enters the bloodstream, displacing oxygen and creating a deadly substance known as carboxyhemoglobin.

    While CO poisoning is very serious, and can be fatal, the initial symptoms of CO poisoning start off fairly mild.
    Sufferers may experience flu-like symptoms, such as headaches, dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea, confusion and irritability.
    As exposure continues, symptoms may become more severe and include vomiting, unconsciousness and, eventually, death.
    Unlike other household dangers, such as fire, CO buildup is completely undetectable without an alarm.
    Due to the many injuries and deaths caused by CO poisoning across Maryland in recent years, in 2007, the Maryland General Assembly passed a law requiring the installation of hardwired CO alarms in all homes built after January 1, 2008.
    In addition, in 2009, the Baltimore County Council passed a law requiring the installation of CO detectors in all rental properties.    
    While the landlord must install the detector, it is up to the tenant to maintain the device.
    Currently there are no laws mandating CO detectors in existing one-and-two-family homes, unless a fuel-fired appliance is installed in the home.
    Detectors might also be required in an existing dwelling if work requiring a permit is done on the home or if the home has an attached garage.
    While not mandated by law, Baltimore County still recommends that all dwellings have CO detectors.
    CO detectors alert residents to carbon monoxide buildup before most adults would begin to experience symptoms.
     Baltimore County Fire Department officials recommend that CO alarms be installed high on the walls of the house to ensure the gas is properly detected.
    It is recommended that alarms be installed in hallways outside of sleeping areas and in rooms with fireplaces and fuel-burning appliances.
    If a CO alarm does go off, fire officials stress that residents should call 911 immediately, open all doors and windows to ventilate the residence and then leave immediately.
    Tips for preventing build-up of CO include properly maintaining fuel-burning appliances and properly ventilating space heaters.
    In addition, officials note that charcoal grills, generators and gasoline-powered tools and engines should never be used indoors.
    For more information on CO poisoning, visit www.baltimorecountymd.gov/Agencies/fire/safety%20education/carbonmonoxide.html.