2010-06-11 / Columnists

Notes On Consumer Affairs

Commentary By Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer

AUDREY PHEFFER AUDREY PHEFFER Earlier this year, Amanda’s Law went into effect in New York State. This law requires both new and existing residences to have carbon monoxide detectors, which complements a long-standing law that requires all residences to have smoke alarms. By installing and maintaining carbon monoxide detectors and smoke alarms in your home, you can help ensure the safety of your family.

Carbon monoxide, or CO, is a poisonous gas that is odorless, colorless, and tasteless.

It is sometimes referred to as the “Silent Killer.”

When inhaled, CO displaces oxygen in the blood stream, reducing the body’s ability to provide oxygen to vital organs like the heart and brain.

The initial symptoms of CO poisoning include headaches, fatigue, nausea, and dizziness. Prolonged exposure may cause vomiting, loss of consciousness, brain damage, and eventually death. Infants, senior citizens, unborn babies, and people with heart and breathing problems are at an especially high risk of CO poisoning.

Any fuel-burning device has the potential to produce CO, including furnaces, fireplaces, woodstoves, automobiles, charcoal and barbecue grills, and gas-powered appliances such as hot water heaters, non-electric space heaters, generators, and stoves.

To help prevent CO poisoning, make sure all appliances are installed properly and have your heating system serviced once a year. Never operate a gas-powered heater, generator, automobile, or charcoal or barbecue grill in an enclosed space such as a garage or home. When using a fireplace, open the flue.

CO detectors can be purchased at most hardware stores.

Since CO mixes freely with air, they may be installed at any level in a room.

You should place one detector near your home’s sleeping area and an additional one on each level of your house.

It is important to test your CO detector on a regular basis to ensure it is working.

In addition, you should make it a habit to change the batteries twice a year.

An easy way to accomplish this is to swap out old batteries when you change your clocks in the spring and fall.

This advice also applies to smoke alarms. House fires outnumber other building fires by more than three to one and most fires occur while the occupants are sleeping. Eight out of ten fire deaths occur in private homes.

Like CO detectors, smoke alarms are available at most hardware stores and should be installed outside your home’s bedrooms and on each floor. Because smoke rises, place your alarms as near to the ceiling as possible.

Be sure to test them on a regular basis—the New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control recommends at least once a month—and you should change the batteries when daylight savings time begins and ends.

For more information on how to keep yourself and your family safe from fires and carbon monoxide poisoning and for more information about Amanda’s Law, you can contact the New York State Office of Fire Prevention & Control at 518- 474-6746 or visit the Office’s website at http://www.dos.state.ny.us/fire/ firewww.html.

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