Local Politics

Lawmakers consider making carbon monoxide detectors mandatory

Posted May 22, 2008 4:52 p.m. EDT
Updated May 22, 2008 11:42 p.m. EDT

— State lawmakers on Thursday considered a bill that would make carbon monoxide detectors mandatory in many homes.

If passed, the bill would require carbon monoxide detectors in new construction and existing rental properties, particularly those with indoor heaters, fireplaces and attached garages. State Sen. William Purcell, D-Anson,  sponsored the bill. The North Carolina Child Fatality Task Force recommended the change.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless and toxic gas. Each year, the gas kills 500 people in the U.S. and sends 15,000 people to emergency rooms with poisoning.

In 2007, Edward Bartlett, 81, died after carbon monoxide from a running car filled his Holly Springs townhouse. Two people in adjoining units sought medical attention after feeling ill.

The bill has some builders asking for more information on the cost and safety benefits of the devices.

“To have this piece of legislation going forward without an open forum and an open debate, I think might be a little premature,” said builder Michael Dean Chadwick.

Chadwick, a member of the Home Builders Association of Raleigh-Wake County, said lawmakers should not mandate the detectors without an intense study.

“We’re not opposed to doing things that are going to help save lives,” Chadwick said. “There’s just too much unknown at this point for people to be rushing to judgment that we need this. No one is saying that we don’t. We just don’t know.”

Raleigh Fire Department Fire Protection Officer Ronald Campbell said the devices are effective and recommended people have them.

“I think it helps in getting the message out that these are vital pieces of equipment in your home to help save a life. They are not that expensive, and anything that is not expensive and can help save your family's life is worth it to us in the fire department,” Campbell said.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, malfunctioning furnaces account for nearly one out of five carbon monoxide illnesses. Appliances that use natural gas and gas line leaks are next on the list. Motor vehicles and gas-powered generators are also common causes of carbon monoxide poisoning.