Law aims to eliminate 'silent killer'

Amanda Hansen would probably still be alive today if it wasn't for a faulty boiler.

The 16-year-old Western New Yorker succumbed last summer to carbon monoxide poisoning while sleeping over at a friend's house. Less than a year later, Amanda's Law is requiring New York property owners to install CO detectors in an effort to prevent what is know as "the silent killer" from claiming other victims.

The law applies to any residence with fuel-serviced appliances, and goes into effect Feb. 22. A detector must be installed on the lowest floor with a bedroom, or in apartment units. Homes built after Jan. 1, 2008, must have hard-wired detectors, not battery powered ones.

Violators are subject to a civil penalty of up to $100.

Additionally, the law compels contractors replacing an appliance emitting CO, such as a gas hot water heater or furnace, to install a detector if one is not present in the home. Only homes served entirely by electrical appliances and without an attached garage will be exempt.

Carbon monoxide gets its spooky moniker because the gas is odorless, tasteless and invisible. Those exposed to it may experience dizziness, headaches and nausea and, if exposure of large enough levels continues, eventual loss of consciousness and death.

The fact carbon monoxide is difficult to detect and its symptoms are often accompanied by disorientation makes it particularly dangerous, said Selkirk Fire Department Chief William Borger.

"You can't tell when you appliances are malfunctioning, and [a detector] does help," he said. "This law is a good thing, and it's going to end up saving lives."

The availability of cheaper detectors means that most landlords should be able to meet the requirement, said Bob McCrae of the Capital District Association of Rental Property Owners.

"The public likes to think that we don't like to spend any money, and it's true that bottom lines are getting really tight, but the cost of a CO detector right now how could you not do it?" he said. "I think overall we support it. We realize it's going to save lives."

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