Brutally Cold Weather Leads to Elevated Carbon Monoxide Risk
In New Jersey, in order to receive a Certificate of Occupancy for a home, the code enforcement official for the town must do an inspection to ensure that all smoke detectors work correctly and that carbon monoxide (CO) detectors are installed by each bedroom. The majority of NJ homeowners don’t do anything beyond that – aside from replacing the batteries when prompted by device’s “low battery alert” chirping sound.
Despite the precautionary measures, carbon monoxide (CO) is the number one cause of poisoning deaths in the US, with approximately 2,100 unintentional deaths every year. In addition, more than 10,000 CO injuries occur annually.
What Causes It
According to Public Service Electric & Gas Company (PSE&G), New Jersey’s largest utility, CO poisoning incidents are more common in cold weather — when more fuel heating appliances are in use. Something as simple as a faulty water heater or blocked chimney or rooftop vent termination cap can lead to multiple fatalities.
Any Exposure is Bad
There are many situations where the minimum # of detectors needed to pass inspection won’t necessarily be enough to prevent a deadly outcome, especially if someone in the house at the time suffers from some kind of preexisting condition, i.e. heart disease or lung disease. (The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends placing a carbon monoxide alarm in every area of your house or business.)
When exposed to CO at a non-lethal low level, symptoms include headache, nausea and feeling light-headed. Without monitored CO detection capability, there is literally nothing beyond those symptoms that would indicate exposure to a very deadly gas.
Exposure to carbon monoxide, which is colorless, odorless, and tasteless, can be potentially lethal, which is why an advanced carbon monoxide detection system will drastically reduce the risk by sounding an audible alarm when it detects CO — well before the exposure levels reach dangerous conditions. In addition, a CO detection capability integrated into a monitored fire alarm system will notify and dispatch the proper authorities.
The reality is, off-the-shelf carbon monoxide detectors that most NJ homeowners plug in are not perfectly designed, with every single unit built perfectly. As with any other product, they can (and do) fail. Not only that, but carbon monoxide – at levels that will NOT trigger an off-the-shelf alarm to sound – can still lead to serious and long-term neurological damage.