In the fall of 1994, international tennis star Vitas Gerulaitis died while staying in the guest house of a Long Island Estate. His death was caused by carbon monoxide which came from a faulty heater. Some sources estimate that carbon monoxide is the number one cause of death by poisoning in the United States. Further estimates suggest that in excess of one thousand people per year die from exposure to high indoor concentrations of carbon monoxide. In addition, even if carbon monoxide levels are not lethal, headaches, nausea, fatigue, dizziness, brain damage and aggravation of heart problems may occur.
Carbon monoxide is a toxic gas that is produced when fuel is burned with incomplete combustion. Home fuel burning appliances (for example: furnaces, fire places, hot water heaters, stoves, generators etc.) produce carbon monoxide. Carbon Monoxide is especially dangerous because it cannot be smelled, tasted or seen. The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission suggests that the best line of defense against Carbon Monoxide is to have your home fuel burning appliances inspected each year, preferably before the start of the home heating season, to make sure these appliances are in good working order.
At the time of Vitas Gerulaitis’ death, effective, low cost Carbon Monoxide detectors/alarms were not available. Since then, relatively inexpensive Carbon Monoxide detectors/alarms have become widely available (check hardware and home supply stores). In light of this, the New Jersey Legislature has mandated the installation of Carbon Monoxide detectors. The statute provides that every unit of dwelling space in a multiple dwelling (a condominium etc.) shall be equipped with one or more carbon monoxide sensor devices that bear the label of a nationally recognized testing laboratory and have been tested and listed as complying with the most recent Underwriters Laboratories standard 2034, or its equivalent. This statute became effective February 8, 1999 and applies to Condominiums and other multiple dwellings. The Department of Community Affairs Commissioner has released a regulation which specifies that single station carbon monoxide alarms shall be installed and maintained in full operating condition in the immediate vicinity of each sleeping area in any room or dwelling unit in a building that contains a fuel-burning appliance or has an attached garage. There are some very limited exceptions to this however, most often the exceptions do not apply.
The required carbon monoxide alarms must be manufactured, listed and labeled in accordance with UL 2034 and must be installed in accordance with the requirements of the regulation and NFPA 720. Installation and operation instructions should be provided by the manufacturer. Carbon monoxide alarms must be battery-operated, hard-wired or of the plug-in type.
Department of Community Affairs’ inspections will check units for compliance with the carbon monoxide regulations and will likely enforce this regulation by assessing fines against those who do not comply.