Quality of UL-2034 Listed CO Alarms Questioned “In the News”

Wednesday December 01, 2004 5:50pm   Reporter: Ross McLaughlin  

Watch the abc7 e-Video eVideo: OYS: Carbon Monoxide Detectors

-WJLA Script-

 

Anchor:
EVERYONE SHOULD HAVE A CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTOR, MAYBE 2 OR 3, BUT EVEN IF YOU HAVE ONE, THE SILENT KILLER, CARBON MONOXIDE COULD BE LURKING IN YOUR HOUSE AND THE DETECTOR MAY NOT GO OFF.

CHECK OUT WHAT OUR 7 ON YOUR SIDE’S ROSS MCLAUGHLIN UNCOVERED.

Ross McLaughlin on-set:
FOLKS YOU CAN BUY CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTORS JUST ABOUT ANYWHERE BUT WE WANTED TO KNOW HOW WELL THEY WORK. SO WE PUT THEM TO TEST BUT TO DO THAT WE HAD TO BE ENGULFED BY THE DEADLY GAS. SO WE INVOLVED EMERGENCY CREWS, FIREFIGHTERS AND EVEN A DOCTOR AND ALL WERE SURPRISED BY THE ALARMING RESULTS.

Story:
FOLKS THIS IS SERIOUS BUSINESS. THAT NEEDS SERIOUS PROTECTION.

CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTORS. WE’RE ABOUT TO ENTER A DEADLY SITUATION.

Ross: “What we’re going to do is start the generator up.”

IN ANOTHER ROOM THE EXHAUST FROM A GAS GENERATOR ACCUMULATES INSIDE THE HOUSE.

TRAPPING CARBON MONOXIDE IN THE AIR.

Tom Miller: “Right now all of our levels are zero.”

AND AS THE DANGEROUS GAS FILLS THE ROOM WE MONITOR THE LEVELS.

Tom Miller: “As soon as we see these numbers start to change then we’ll start the stop watch.”

A STOP WATCH IN HAND. SEVERAL CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTORS MOUNTED ON THE WALL. ONE PLUGGED INTO THE OUTLET…

SAFELY OUTSIDE THE EXPERTS WATCH.

Tom Miller: “Because it has the potential to have very quickly very devastating effects.”

PEDIATRICIAN CHRISTINA JOHNS IS RIGHT. CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING DEPRIVES YOU OF OXYGEN. CAUSES FLU LIKE SYMPTOMS. HEADACHES, VOMITING AND EVENTUALLY DEATH.

WITHIN MINUTES THE FIREFIGHTERS DETECTORS START TO ALARM.

AT THESE LEVELS THEY WON’T ENTER A BUILDING WITHOUT PROTECTION..

Ross: “Would this be dangerous without our masks right now?

Tom Miller: “For a prolonged period it would be.”

BUT OUR DETECTORS REMAIN SILENT.

Tom Miller: “None of the other ones are going off yet. No.”

THEY CAN’T BELIEVE IT.

Tom Miller: “Meet me on the other side.”

Tom:”We still haven’t gotten a thing.”

Ray: “Not one of them?”

IN FACT IT TAKES A FULL 20 MINUTES FOR THIS.

FINALLY OUR ALARMS GO OFF.  OUR TEST IS DONE..

Ross: You were watching us from out here what do you think?

Dr. Christina Johns: “I would have significant concern.”

BECAUSE OF HIGH LEVELS.

Capt Ray Sanchez:”They continued to climb and yet the carbon monoxide detectors didn’t go off.”

BUT THEY DID PERFORM ACCORDING TO INDUSTRY STANDARDS GOING OFF AFTER PROLONGED EXPOSURE TO CARBON MONOXIDE.

Chief Mike Johns: “But it’s not what we anticipated.”

THEY ANTICIPATED A QUICKER WARNING. UNDERWRITERS LABORATORIES SETS THE STANDARDS TO PREVENT THE DEATH OF AN AVERAGE HEALTHY ADULT…BUT FOLKS WHAT IF YOU’RE ELDERLY, A CHILD, PREGNANT OR JUST “NOT AVERAGE”. THEIR OWN LITERATURE STATES YOU CAN BE MORE QUICKLY AND SEVERELY AFFECTED. WHAT ABOUT THEM? LET’S ASK UNDERWRITERS LAB IN CHICAGO.

John Drengenberg: “We found that with a more sensitive standard, you will end up with nuisance alarms. And this means people will deactivate the alarm.”

Ross: “What it’s going to take to get he manufacturers to market something that may be those folks could access and buy?”

John Drengenberg: “That’s something you’ll have to ask the manufacturers.”

GOOD IDEA. SEEMS THEY ARE ALREADY SOLD. FIRST ALERT TELLS SOME ARE AVAILABLE…FOR 2 TO 3 THOUSAND DOLLARS EACH.

AND THAT’S NOT GOOD ENOUGH

Ray Sanchez:”I think we need to revisit the standards that are set and making make some suggestion on an official level.”

Ross McLaughlin:
CARBON MONOXIDE IS MEASURED IN PARTS PER MILLION..IT’S COMPLICATED TO EXPLAIN HOW THESE WORK..THE SIMPLE ANSWER IS THEY ALARM AFTER A BUILD UP OF THE GAS OVER A PERIOD OF TIME.

OUR EXPERTS WANT THEM GO OFF SOONER TO HELP THOSE FOLKS WHO ARE MORE VULNERABLE TO THE DEADLY GAS. BUT UNTIL THAT HAPPENS…HERE’S A GOOD COMPROMISE..GET SOMETHING LIKE THIS..IT HAS A DIGITAL READOUT ..THE ALARM MAY NOT GO OFF BUT YOU CAN SEE LEVELS OF CO ON YOUR HOME AT ALL TIMES. AND IT PLUGS IN AND HAS BATTERY BACK UP. THANKS TO THE MONTGOMERY FIRE DEPARTMENT AND ALL THOSE WHO HELPED WITH OUR TEST.

IF YOU NEED HELP..GO TO WJLA.COM AND CLICK ON “7 ON YOUR SIDE” OR CALL OUR TOLL FREE HOTLINE..866-236-3401.

Articles from the Mpls. Star Tribune 

Karen Youso ..... Last update: February 02, 2007 ? 5:31 PM

Super Sensitive C O Monitors are hard to get  

By Karen Youso, Star Tribune

If you want a carbon monoxide monitor in your home, you might have 
trouble finding one. Or, at least, getting one without a wait.

As frustrated searcher Bev Nordley wrote:

"The Lung Association is obviously overwhelmed with orders as they will 
only take a reservation deposit at this time for delivery in 2-3 months. 
Help!"

It may seem odd that she was looking to the American Lung Association 
for carbon monoxide (CO) protection, but as was discussed in Tuesday's 
column, people looking for the best in CO detection can't just run into 
their local hardware or big-box store and get what they want.

Store shelves hold plenty of CO/ alarms/; but they come with a 
disclaimer that the units won't necessarily protect the more vulnerable: 
pregnant women, fetuses, children, elderly or those with heart and lung 
issues.

To get that protection, you have to find the elusive CO /monitor/. They 
are more sensitive and will notify occupants of low levels of CO, 
providing better overall protection.

They're scarce because most manufacturers don't make them, at least not 
since 1998. That's when Underwriter's Lab (UL) decided to turn CO 
detectors (that prevent harm as well as death) into CO alarms (intended 
to prevent death). Most manufacturers complied to get the coveted UL label.

The idea was to reduce costly emergency CO calls to gas utilities and 
first responders. When the industry did that, however, it also put a 
subset of the population, those most vulnerable to the effects of CO, at 
some risk. Just how much risk is unclear. CO is a recognized toxin 
affecting the heart and brain, yet UL's standard is weaker than many 
U.S. and Canadian agency standards. What r! ankles m any experts the 
most, however, is that the standard expressly prohibits the automatic 
display of low-levels of CO (below 30 parts per million over eight 
hours), which would protect as well as alert occupants of a developing 
problem so steps can be taken to fix it.

Although some experts say changes to the UL standard are coming later 
this year, don't wait to get CO protection into your home. A CO alarm is 
better than nothing at all. It can save your life. Every residence 
should have at least a CO alarm. If you want more than minimal 
protection, consider beefing it up with a CO monitor, which can be 
harder to locate and costlier than an alarm.

To find one, look for units without the word "alarm" in the name, which 
usually signifies minimal protection, and check the enclosed literature 
for any disclaimers.

Some examples include:

Co-Expert Model 2004

The most sensitive CO monitor on the market, according to its maker, 
this unit has a display window that will automatically show low-level CO 
below 30 ppm, and will alert occupants sooner than other devices. 
Because it exceeds UL standards, it does not carry the UL label. It 
sells for $135 to $150 and is available at:

Bonfe's Plumbing and Heating, 505 Randolph Av., St. Paul, 55102. Call 
612-332-6633.

?Hankey & Brown Inspections. Call 952-829-0044 www.hankeyandbrown.com 
 Click on "CO monitor" in left-side menu.

O'Connor's One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning, 1904 Vermillion St., 
Hastings, 55033. Call 651-437-4177.

www.aeromedix.com. Click on "co monitors" in 
left side menu.

American Lung Association "Health House" Program, 1-800-586-4872, 
www.healthhouse.org 


------------------------------------------


FIXIT:Carbon monoxide safety devices vary   


By Karen Youso, Star Tribune

Last update: January 29, 2007 ? 5:30 PM

QUESTIONS: 
"How effective are carbon monoxide, [C O], alarms seen in stores ?"
"What should I look for when buying a C O alarm ?"


ANSWER: There are two types of devices. The terms "CO alarm" and "CO 
detector" (or CO monitor) are often used interchangeably, but the units 
are quite different.

CO alarms are designed to sound an alarm when CO levels become 
life-threatening. They do not provide information about chronic 
low-level exposures, which are known to be harmful.

A CO detector or monitor, on the other hand, will provide information 
about low levels, generally under 30 parts per million (ppm), and sound 
an alarm at life-threatening levels. (There is no standard for safe 
levels of CO in homes. The U.S. National Ambient Air Quality Standard 
for outdoor air is 9 ppm over eight hours.) Health authorities caution 
that long-term, low-level CO exposure should be avoided, especially by 
pregnant women, children and those with heart and lung disease. A CO 
detector/monitor also alerts occupants to a developing CO problem, so 
they can take steps to prevent a crisis.

CO detectors/monitors can be difficult to find; most retailers stock 
only CO alarms. That's because nine years ago Underwriters Lab (UL) 
changed the standard, turning away from monitoring and toward the 
less-sensitive alarm.

The change was spurred by a desire to reduce the number of nuisance 
calls to utilities and first responders. Some health authorities argued 
that the change would eliminate information about chronic low-level 
exposure.

Another reason for the wide use of CO alarms is a new Minnesota law that 
requires only minimum protection, installation of a CO alarm, in new 
construction. (The law will extend to existing housing next year.) But 
it doesn't preclude higher levels of protection.

When buying CO protection, remember that minimal protection is better 
than none at all. Then consider who's in your home and how much 
information you want. If your household contains pregnant women, 
infants, children, senior citizens, people with heart or respiratory 
problems, or if you want to be alerted to a developing CO problem, 
invest in a CO detector/monitor.

Several sites on the Internet sell the monitors, including the American 
Lung Association of Minnesota at www.healthhouse.org 
 (1-800-586-4872).

If minimal protection is what you want, then buy a CO alarm. Look for 
one that meets the UL standard (usually indicated on the box), has a 
long-term warranty and can be self-tested and reset.

A basic, off-the-shelf CO alarm costs $20 to $50. The Lung Association's 
CO alarm sells for around $90 and its CO monitor, with a higher level of 
protection, sells for around $130, plus shipping and handling.

Whether you buy an alarm or a detector/monitor, it's a good idea to 
write the date on the device when you install it so you know to replace 
it in five years (or when recommended by the manufacturer).

Remember these are back-up devices and should not be relied upon 
exclusively. The first line of defense against CO is to make sure that 
all fuel-burning appliances operate properly, including water heaters. 
Have the heating system (including chimneys and flues) inspected each year.

-------------------------------------------------


Carbon monoxide home detectors: "Do they give false security ?"


Experts warn that some detectors won't recognize low levels of the 
poisonous gas.

Darlene Prois and Donna Halvorsen, Star Tribune staff writers

Last update: December 10, 2006 ? 10:21 PM

Early one October morning, Judy Wagner felt herself passing out
in her kitchen, where she had gone for ice to relieve yet
another piercing headache. She woke up outside. Although she
didn't know how she got there, she knew what was wrong. She ran
into the house to get her sick husband and called for help.

It took mere minutes for a fire department technician to find the carbon 
monoxide levels in the house at dangerous levels and climbing, even 
though three new detectors the Wagners had installed had not sounded.

"We certainly feel fortunate," said Judy Wagner, who lives with her 
husband in Byron, Minn., west of Rochester.

Although carbon monoxide is the most common cause of death by poisoning 
in the United States, most people exposed to the gas recover with 
treatment, said Dr. Cheryl Adkinson of Hennepin County Medical Center.

*Common killer*

The death last week of a 17-year old North Branch boy, Andrew Carlson, 
underscored the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning, which nationally 
kills an average of 1,000 people each year. Most states have new laws 
requiring the installation of carbon monoxide alarms. In Minnesota, the 
poisoning death of 3-year-old Hannah Griggs of Oronoco several years ago 
led to a law that will require alarms in new houses beginning Jan. 1.

But the Wagners warn that homeowners shouldn't depend on new laws or 
even new alarms for protection. Chronic carbon monoxide poisoning was 
diagnosed in Judy and her husband, Larry, retired professionals, more 
than nine months after the first telltale symptoms appeared.

The couple began experiencing headaches shortly after moving into their 
house in Olmsted County in January. After three months of worsening 
symptoms, including fatigue and cognitive problems, doctors considered 
the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning, but dismissed it after the 
Wagners assured them that their detectors indicated no problems. The gas 
company checked for gas leaks three times, but not for carbon monoxide.

It took the crisis in October to solve the mystery. The Wagners learned 
that a malfunctioning oven igniter in the gas range was spewing carbon 
monoxide. After being treated and released at a Rochester hospital, and 
removing the stove, their health improved.

Adkinson said symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning -- nausea, headache, 
dizziness and fatigue -- are general enough that the true source might 
not be suspected. And some symptoms, such as impaired thinking and 
coordination problems, could be confused with other substances, such as 
alcohol. That was the case last week with Carlson's father, who police 
at first took to jail, suspecting he was intoxicated.

Anything that burns a hydrocarbon gives off carbon monoxide.

"It could be the heating system and how it's ventilated," Adkinson said. 
"It could be another appliance that's gas-burning, like a water heater, 
or it could be an attached garage with a running car or snowblower. If 
it gives off carbon monoxide, and it's not ventilated to the outside, 
the gas will collect and make people ill."

Exchanging the gas range for an electric one solved the Wagners' 
problem, but they've yet to find an alarm they trust. After exchanging 
their three defective units with three recommended new ones, they 
discovered that they didn't work, either.

The couple has consulted with an attorney, but they're not relishing a 
legal fight.

"All we really want is a reliable detector," Judy Wagner said.

While it's often difficult for homeowners to find the right detector, 
Dan Bernardy, deputy Minnesota fire marshal, said alarms have improved 
significantly since they were introduced a decade or more ago.

"Overall, they're good tools," he said. "They're very effective."

But they need to be properly installed and kept charged if they are to 
work, he said.

"You want them near your bedroom because it's when you're sleeping that 
it's the most dangerous," said Bob Moffitt, spokesman for the American 
Lung Association's Minnesota chapter. The Lung Association is selling a 
detector on its www.healthhouse.org <http://www.healthhouse.org/> 
website that is more expensive and more sophisticated than others.

"Not only will they detect the low levels, they will actually keep a 
record of when the carbon monoxide level goes up and down over a period 
of time," Moffitt said. "It uses a very sophisticated measuring gauge."

One CO Expert-model detector, at $129, should suffice per home, Moffitt 
said, while experts often recommend several of the conventional 
detectors, which set off an alarm only when the CO gets to a certain level.

"You could be experiencing symptoms from long-term exposure to lower 
levels, and your [conventional] monitors would never go off because [the 
CO level] really has to spike before the alarm goes off," Moffitt said.

Carbon Monoxide Tests Reveal Alarming Results

Marti Emerald Tests Carbon Monoxide Alarms

 

POSTED: 5:26 pm PST December 1, 2004
UPDATED: 5:29 pm PST December 1, 2004

 

Carbon monoxide is an invisible and odorless gas. When it builds up, it can kill or cripple a victim who is unknowingly breathing it, 10News reported.
Many safety experts recommend homes be equipped with carbon monoxide alarms. 10News put some of the most popular alarms to the test and found they do make noise when they read high enough levels. But some safety experts said they would like to see the alarms go off much earlier.
In the investigation, two alarms by Kidde (the Basic and Nighthawk) and one by First Alert (a smoke alarm/carbon monoxide detector combination) sounded when the carbon monoxide level in the test room reached 306 parts per million. It took about 30 minutes of stoking the test fire — burning charcoal in a Hibachi — to reach the potent level and set off the alarms.
The response fell within standards set by Underwriters Laboratories, but the firefighters who monitored the test said that’s not good enough.
“These are not satisfactory,” said firefighter Eric Thomas. “The alarms are not loud enough and don’t sound often enough. That was a hazardous environment and there was no indicator in the first few minutes that people needed to get out. That’s the most important thing.”
However, the alarm makers disagreed.
BRK Brands, which makes First Alert, said residential carbon monoxide alarms are very different from commercial multigas sensing meters, which typically sell for $2,000 and more.
Spokeswoman Deborah Hanson said, “Commercial detectors can be set to detect and sound at a variety of exposure levels. Residential carbon monoxide alarms have one fixed setting.”
Kidde spokeswoman Laurie Bowser-Sever said, “Kidde’s residential carbon monoxide alarms are designed to alarm before someone is expected to feel the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning.”
She said alarms save lives.
The UL’s chief toxicology advisor agreed.
Dr. Jerrold Leikin of Evanston Northwestern Healthcare said a survey of 4,500 carbon monoxide emergencies (between the years 1994 and 1998) showed their were no deaths when a working carbon monoxide detector was in the house. He said the evidence was so overwhelming that in Chicago there is an ordinance that requires carbon monoxide detectors in many homes.
New York is the most recent city to adopt a carbon monoxide alarm ordinance.
Leikin added that the concentration of carbon monoxide would have subjected many to about one-third the poison needed to kill during a short-term exposure.
Dr. Jake Jacoby, the head of Hypobaric Medicine at the UCSD Medical Center, said differently.
Jacoby told 10News that if exposed over the course of several hours, a quarter of the exposure — 75 ppm — could be very harmful. Firefighter Eric Thomas said his professional monitor is set far lower than residential alarms because of the potential harm of breathing carbon monoxide while working or exerting energy.
Jacoby recommended that families install carbon monoxide alarms in their homes.
Experts differ on where to place them.

Jacoby said sleeping and living areas are good spots for carbon monoxide monitors. Thomas recommended putting alarms in areas near potential carbon monoxide sources: kitchens, near furnaces, water heaters and other fuel-powered appliances (outside a 10-foot radius to prevent nuisance alarms). Place alarms in stairwells and hallways, that way alarms can respond to higher gas levels before they reach the bedroom or lounging areas of the house, where families could be caught unaware, with little or no time to respond.

 

Here are other recommendations:

  • Before turning on the furnace for the first time this year, call San Diego Gas and Electric for a furnace checkup. Make sure furnaces, water heaters and chimneys are working right.
  • Clean chimneys on a regular basis, so they don’t back up and poison the family.
  • Never use a gas oven to heat the house. It can produce deadly carbon monoxide.
  • Absolutely never burn a BBQ or other fuel-powered heater or appliance indoors.
  • Kidde recommends changing out alarms every five to seven years because of changing technology, and replacing batteries every year.
  • Underwriters Laboratories recommends testing carbon monoxide alarms at least once a month.
  • If your carbon monoxide alarm does go off, clear the house and call the fire department or 911 for help and instructions.