I’ve shared a lot of words lately about carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. I’m here to share a lot more. This is not a case of beating a dead horse, either. It is a case of waking a sleeping giant.

The sleeping giant in this case is a somewhat abstract figure, hard to describe or pin down. The figure is that of a person or organization that I’d like to see “step up to the plate” and do what has to be done to make CO detectors mandatory in all homes, new or old. If this means better detector testing standards, so be it. If it means better CO detectors, so be it. If it means a fair standard, so be it.


I recently received a fax from Eric Grahn of Weber & Grahn Conditioning Corp., Hampton Bays, NY. Grahn read my previous column about CO detectors and sent me an interesting bit of information. This information included the “Carbon Monoxide Alarm Requirements for New Residential Construction,” which is part of the Suffolk County, NY, sanitary code.

The first sentence in the first paragraph states: “The Suffolk County Board of Health amended the Suffolk County Sanitary Code to require that carbon monoxide alarms be installed in all new residential construction.”

The purpose of the document was to answer some frequently asked questions about CO requirements. Grahn also sent me a copy of “Carbon Monoxide Alarm Standards,” a supplement to the “Suffolk County Sanitary Code: Article 10 — Air Pollution Control.” This is reference material noted in the “requirements”


Some of the questions/answers are as follows:

  • When do these requirements take effect? The law is effective October 1, 1999 for all new residential construction.

  • What type of facilities must install carbon monoxide detectors? All new one-family, two-family, and multiple dwellings must install carbon monoxide detectors.

  • What kind of alarm must be used? The alarm must be certified by a nationally recognized testing laboratory to conform to Underwriters Laboratories Standard UL 2034, latest edition.

  • How will these provisions be enforced? Final construction approval from the Department’s Bureau of Wastewater Management will be withheld until a certification has been received from a licensed electrician indicating that the alarms have been properly installed.

    On that last point, Grahn emphasized that without “cesspool or sewer approval, no certificate of occupancy [will be issued].”

    So in other words, no CO detectors, no occupancy permit, per the Suffolk County sanitary code. This is what I call “going in the back door.” If there are no uniform requirements for CO detectors (at the front door), attach the requirement to something just as important (building occupancy).

    Way to go, Suffolk County.


    I spoke with a firefighter in my neighborhood recently about the CO issue. He told me about a call his department got last month from an elderly woman. She was complaining that her newly installed CO detector was going off “for no apparent reason” and wanted the fire department to investigate.

    It turned out that she had forgotten to turn off the car after parking it in the attached garage. The amount of CO that had entered the home was very high. According to the firefighter, there was still over a quarter tank of gas in the car — enough to keep it running and provide a final lethal dose of CO poisoning. The woman told firefighters that her children bought her the CO detector and “forced her” to install it, even though she didn’t see the need for it.

    It goes to show that, despite the issues of CO detector testing, CO detector reliability, fair standards, et al, the bottom line is that they save lives and should be mandatory. Let’s stop the posturing and break down the front door.

    Hall is business management editor. He can be reached at 734-542-6214; 734-542-6215 (fax); johnhall@achrnews.com (e-mail).

    Publication date: 06/03/2002