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Capt. Andy Summitt

Capt. Andy Summitt demonstrates how a plug-in carbon monoxide detector is installed. He said that it is important to install these detectors in low places preferably by water heaters or other devices that commonly produce carbon monoxide. 

MUSCATINE — Heating devices like home furnaces, gas stoves and hot water heaters give of a toxic byproduct. There is no color, taste or even odor. It is called carbon monoxide, and according to Mike Hartman, assistant chief of the Muscatine Fire Department, homeowners will now be forced to do something about it.

Starting Sunday, July 1, a bill signed during the 2015 legislative session will go into effect. S.F. 2219 required carbon monoxide detectors in all multiple-unit residential buildings and single-family dwellings.

“The tricky thing,” Hartman said. “You can be exposed without even realizing it. It is something you can’t smell, you can’t hear, you can’t taste, you can’t notice at all, but it can in the right quantities cause quite a bit of damage to you.”

Hartman explained that symptoms are often flu like: lethargic, nauseous and even tired. But the telling symptom, he said, was developing headaches.

Since 1994, when he joined the department, Hartman said the county has been lucky to not have not had any deaths resulting from carbon monoxide poisoning. However, he said each year the department responds to cases of carbon monoxide poisoning.

In the State of Iowa, smoke detectors are already required for most buildings. As Hartman explained many buildings are mandated to have carbon monoxide detectors in them. The bill extends these requirements to residential buildings.

“In the grand scheme of things they are a pretty low cost solution to this issue,” Hartman said. “They are already required in a lot of places, but they really kind of drilled down and said that people really need to have them.”

The owner of the property — not the renter — is required to pay for the device. Hartman recommended that people purchase “UL” tested devices. Underwriter’s Laboratory is a safety consulting group used to test devices like carbon monoxide detectors. He said that homeowners can expect to pay about $30 for a detector.

While the City of Muscatine does not offer a service for giving people carbon monoxide alarms, they do for smoke alarms. Hartman said with the new legislative requirement and the similar price point of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, his department is likely to look into providing both.

“We provide smoke alarms and help people out with that requirement,” Hartman said. “But we don’t have anything like that for carbon monoxide yet, but that is something that would probably be a good idea to look at as an option.”

Hartman said he has been at work with building inspectors getting ready for the new requirement.

“It is very similar to what we do with smoke detectors,” Hartman said. “The rental housing people at (Muscatine) City Hall and (the) Building and Zoning (Department) they are the ones that will keep an eye out for carbon monoxide detectors in rentals and things like that. Just like they do with a smoke detector.”

Already, Hartman said any new construction post July 1 will have to have carbon monoxide detectors.

“As far as new construction, I’ve already had discussions with the building department and they kind of keep an eye out for smoke detectors now,” Hartman said. “Adding the carbon monoxide detector to the list they are already checking for isn’t going to be difficult at all.”

While the new requirement does have stipulations for enforcement, Hartman said he prefers to think about it as a public education on the dangers of carbon monoxide.  

“I’m not going to be knocking on people’s doors saying, Show me your carbon monoxide detector,” Hartman said. “Hopefully we’re getting the word out, and people will begin to do what they need to do.”