State law requires more protection from carbon monoxide

The second phase of a state law requiring improved protection from carbon-monoxide poisoning took effect Friday.

All newly constructed and remodeled dwellings that are for sale now must be equipped with a functioning carbon-monoxide detector.

The Lofgren and Zander Memorial Act, passed by the state Legislature in 2009, has several portions that regulate the use of carbon-monoxide alarms. Named for two former Oregonians who died from accidental carbon-monoxide poisoning in 2002, the first parts of the law took effect last summer.

In July 2010, landlords entering into new rental agreements were required to furnish a carbon-monoxide alarm in dwellings that had potential sources of carbon monoxide, such as gas water heaters, furnaces or attached garages that could result in a buildup of carbon monoxide inside the house.

As of this week, landlords must provide properly functioning carbon-monoxide alarms for all rental dwelling units with a carbon-monoxide source.

In addition, anybody selling a house containing a carbon-monoxide source, including manufactured dwellings or multifamily housing units, must have one or more properly functioning carbon-monoxide alarms.

The requirements cover all types of dwelling units, including apartments, hotel rooms and even assisted-living facilities. The carbon-monoxide alarm requirements for new construction, reconstruction, alteration and repair apply regardless of the presence of a carbon-monoxide source.

While carbon-monoxide deaths are not frequent, said Medford Fire Inspector Derek Zwagerman, close calls are more common, and detection of carbon monoxide is impossible without a detector.

"It's something you can't see or smell, and it can kill you," he said. "You can get it through vehicle combustion in a garage or a gas-fire appliance not venting. It may not happen very often, but it happens often enough."

Zwagerman said that while existing owner-occupied houses are not required to have the detectors, fire officials recommend them for all homes.

"It's basically just another safeguard for your family, and they even make the units that include the smoke detector and the carbon monoxide," he said.

In 2005, the National Fire Protection Association reported that U.S. fire departments responded to some 61,100 non-fire carbon-monoxide incidents — an average of seven calls an hour. Some 2,100 people die in the U.S. each year from carbon-monoxide poisoning.

Carbon monoxide detectors cost between $15 and $75, depending on the model.

For more information online, see

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at

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