Iowa’s CO Protection Plan

New State Law Requiring Detectors Designed To Give Homeowners Safe Guard Against Silent Killer

No warning. No trace. No odor. No chance.

Like a grim reaper in the night, carbon monoxide claims the lives of 430 unsuspecting Americans per year, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Controls statistics.

Thankfully, Iowa homeowners will get protection against a silent killer under a new state law.

The law, which went into enforcement on July 1, requires homeowners and landlords who have fuel-burning heaters and appliances, fireplaces or attached garages to install carbon monoxide detectors in their homes. The law requires all new multiple-unit residential buildings and single-family dwellings to be equipped with carbon monoxide alarms wired into the building if they have fuel-burning appliances or attached garages. Existing single-family rental homes, multiple-unit residences and single-family homes also must be equipped with plugged-in or battery-powered CO alarms.

“Carbon monoxide is a silent killer,” Dubuque Fire Department Fire Marshall Mark Burkle told the the Dubuque Telegraph Herald. “It’s invisible. It’s odorless. It’s a colorless gas. It is a deadly gas and can go undetected until it starts creating medical issues for you.”

CO is a toxic gas that can be neither seen or smelled. CO emits whenever fuel or other carbon-based materials are burned. Breathing high levels of CO causes severe illness or death in just minutes.

Tornados offer more warning than this ruthless killer. CO poisoning claimed the lives of a Dyersville couple in October 2017. Police believe the deaths were likely the result of breathing exhaust from a generator. State health records report 20 Iowans died from CO poisoning in 2016 and another nearly 300 visited emergency departments with CO poisoning.

“The risk is so high of exposure to carbon monoxide poisoning, anything we can do from a prevention standpoint is relatively good policy,” Tim Wickam, community health consultant for the Iowa Department of Public Health, told the Telegraph Herald.

Iowa State Fire Marshall Dan Wood is optimistic the Hawkeye State’s new CO detector law, which was signed by former governor Terry Branstad in 2016, will alert people to this invisible threat and save lives.

“With this detector, anything in the future has a good outcome, get out and get what (danger) is going on fixed,” Wood said.

Industry experts advise placing CO detectors near rooms used for sleeping and in bedrooms with fuel-burning appliances or fireplaces. With most homes having fuel-burning appliances like cars and furnaces, there is an inherit chance of incomplete combustion or incomplete burning of fuels in many homes, Iowa City Fire Department Fire Marshall Brian Greer said.

Iowa’s new CO law legally compels homeowners and landlords to protect their residences against CO, but homeowners and landlords should take the initiative to protect their families and residents from one of nature’s most elusive killers.

“Regardless of what the law states, you should have a carbon monoxide protector in your home,” Kevin Ciabatti, Cedar Rapids Building Services Director, told CBS2 Iowa.

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