New Standard For Carbon Monoxide Detectors Can Save Hundreds Of Lives Each Year

May 04, 1992
Release Number: 92081

 A new standard for carbon monoxide detectors can help prevent the more than 200 estimated deaths each year attributed to residential carbon monoxide poisoning. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL) today announced the publication of a new voluntary standard (UL Standard for Safety 2034 "Single- and Multiple-Station Carbon Monoxide Detectors") for residential carbon monoxide detectors. CPSC and UL recommend that consumers look for, purchase, and install carbon monoxide detectors that have labels showing that the detectors meet the requirements of the new UL standard. These detectors are not available now but should be available later this summer. Other testing labs may certify and label carbon monoxide detectors that meet the UL standard.

The new standard requires detectors to sound an alarm before consumers are exposed to hazardous carbon monoxide levels. The new detectors must also demonstrate the ability to distinguish carbon monoxide from other gases such as butane, heptane, isopropyl alcohol, methane, carbon dioxide, and ethyl acetate to prevent false alarms.

CPSC Chairman Jacqueline Jones-Smith said, "CPSC worked with UL to improve the state of the art with the carbon monoxide detector standard. I am proud of the Commission staff members who helped achieve this new level of product safety. These new carbon monoxide detectors will be as important to home safety as smoke detectors."

UL President Tom Castino noted that, "carbon monoxide detectors are being tested at UL right now. We're anticipating that detectors complying with the new standard could be on the market by the end of the summer."

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that is produced during incomplete combustion of any fuel. It can cause death without warning. Carbon monoxide poisoning can cause flu- like symptoms and also dizziness, fatigue, headaches, nausea, and irregular breathing.

A line of defense against carbon monoxide poisoning is to make sure that all fuel-burning appliances operate properly. Every consumer should install carbon monoxide detectors in hallways adjacent to sleeping areas. In addition, consumers living in homes with fuel-burning appliances should have their home heating systems (including chimneys and flues) inspected each year for proper operation and should install carbon monoxide detectors above permanently-installed fuel-burning appliances.

Information available to the Commission indicates that prices of carbon monoxide detectors range from around $60 to $200, but most of the new detectors that meet the requirements of UL 2034 are expected to cost under $100.