C-U requires carbon monoxide detector installation in all residences

By Whitney Blair Wyckoff

The Carbon Monoxide Alarm Detector Act, which went into effect Jan. 1, requires homeowners and landlords to furnish their property with a carbon monoxide detector 15 feet or fewer from all bedrooms.

Esther Patt, coordinator of the Tenant Union at the University of Illinois, said the new act will improve the safety of local renters.

“We’ve had a number of complaints about carbon monoxide leaks,” Patt said. “It’s a recurring problem.”

Units that do not have gas appliances and that do not have an attached garage are exempt from this new rule. Patt said while some of the newer developments use only electrical appliances, most tenant-occupied buildings on or around campus are older, and will generally have a mix of gas and non-gas appliances.

Patt emphasized the importance of cities enforcing this new legislation.

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The Urbana City Council recently passed a rental registration program that requires landlords to submit to periodic inspections of their rental properties. Through this new program, landlords need to register with the city and pay an annual fee.

In Champaign, inspectors check common areas of apartment buildings but do not go into the apartments themselves. Susan Salzman, City of Champaign property maintenance supervisor, said tenants should call the city to have their apartment inspected if the landlord will not install a carbon monoxide detector.

The Carbon Monoxide Detector Act comes in the wake of two carbon monoxide poisoning-related incidents in Champaign-Urbana in the past few months.

J. W. Pirtle, local landlord and former Champaign City Councilman, was recently sentenced to six months in jail after he neglected to repair a furnace in one of his apartments. The faulty furnace leaked carbon monoxide and led to the death of a local man, Otha Lee Harmon.

Also, an apartment occupied by five University students was condemned, and more apartments were evacuated at the end of last semester, when city officials discovered that furnaces in the apartments were emitting high levels of carbon monoxide. The building, located across from the six pack at 102 E. Gregory Drive, is owned by Gabe’s Place Apartments. Later, Gabe’s Place Apartments replaced every furnace in the building.

Gabe Omo-Osagie, owner of Gabe’s Place Apartments, would not comment on the incident.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, tasteless gas. If a large quantity is ingested it can lead to death. Dr. David P. Lawrance, medical director of McKinley Heath Center, said that victims of carbon monoxide poisoning might experience headaches. But, when a leak is not caught, a victim could fare much worse.

“They might, as they say, just wake up dead,” Lawrance said.

Lawrance said that carbon monoxide poisoning can result at any time of the year, but it occurs more often during cold weather months when people are using faulty furnaces, chimneys or gas water heaters.

“Carbon monoxide binds to hemoglobin preventing oxygen from attaching, causing suffocation,” Lawrance said. “When a carbon monoxide detector goes off, open the windows, get out, and call 9-11 so the fire department can respond.

They can test and generally determine the source, and tell you if and when it is safe to re-enter.”

Patt of the tenant union said there have been a variety of reasons landlords have neglected to fix a gas leak.

“The best thing to do is get an alarm,” Patt said.