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Will Your Carbon Monoxide Detector Protect You?

By Paula Ebben, WBZ-TV
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Award-winning journalist Paula Ebben co-anchors WBZ-TV News at 6PM...
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BOSTON (CBS) – Carbon monoxide gas has been in the news a lot lately. Several preschool children and their teachers were sickened by the gas last week in Douglas. In February, three people were killed by the deadly gas in their New Hampshire home.

“It’s deadly,” warned state Fire Marshal Stephen Coan. That’s why state lawmakers passed Nicole’s bill back in 2006. It is named for Nicole Garafolo, the 7-year-old girl who was killed by CO gas in her home. The bill requires Carbon Monoxide detectors in every residence. Coan says the law has saved lives, but many people don’t realize the devices are only good for five to seven years. “So do simple math; we are at a very important point,” Coan said.

It has been about seven years since the law went into effect, so there could be countless CO detectors that are at the end of their life. The devices are supposed to make a chirping sound to let you know they are no longer working, but there are no guarantees.

Gina Corso was exposed to the deadly gas and didn’t know it until her father collapsed in her basement, not far from their CO detector that never went off. “I would never have known,” she said. Gina was rushed to the hospital where doctors found elevated levels of carbon monoxide in her blood.

With the help of fire professionals, our sister station in Chicago tested ten carbon monoxide detectors by generating exhaust from a truck. One detector was brand new and nine older models were taken from the homes of volunteers. UL approved CO alarms are required to sound within 15 minutes of gas levels reaching higher than 400 parts per million. Only three of the alarms, including the new one, met that standard. The next four did not sound until at least 40 minutes later when the CO levels were dangerously high. Three of the alarms never went off at all.

We don’t know the exact act of the detectors used in the experiment, but Fire Marshal Coan says the message is clear for Massachusetts residents. “I think people are pushing their luck a little bit by not replacing it,” he said.

The bottom line, if you haven’t purchased a new carbon monoxide detector since Nicole’s law was passed back in 2006, it’s time to do it now.

MORE LOCAL NEWS FROM CBS BOSTON

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