Mandatory alarms for carbon monoxide

THE MANDATORY installation of carbon monoxide alarms in all new homes is to be addressed by new building regulations being drafted…

THE MANDATORY installation of carbon monoxide alarms in all new homes is to be addressed by new building regulations being drafted by the Department of the Environment.

Builders are currently under no obligation to install detectors for carbon monoxide in houses. A review of the section of the building regulations that deals with heating appliances is to address this situation.

An expert group was established last September to review this section, part J, of the building regulations, which have not been updated since 1997.

Draft regulations will include a section dealing with the mandatory installation of carbon monoxide alarms and are expected to be available for public consultation by the middle of next year.

The National Standards Authority of Ireland has advised all homeowners to install detectors.

“While there are no legal requirements currently, everyone should get an alarm; they’re as important as smoke alarms,” a spokesman for the authority said.

However, he said having an alarm was no substitute for maintaining appliances and chimneys.

“We don’t want people to think that if they put in an alarm they’re safe and they don’t need to get the boiler serviced or the chimney swept. It is most important that boilers are serviced once a year, and have a chimney swept regularly.”

He said it was also important to realise the risks from carbon monoxide were not just associated with gas-burning appliances, he said.

“Oil burners, solid-fuel ranges, turf, timber and coal are just as dangerous as gas.”

Figures in relation to the number of deaths attributable to carbon monoxide poisoning had been misinterpreted, he said. Reports of about 40 deaths a year originated from a 2003 report which included deaths in house fires and suicides. Only one death was attributable to a “faulty device”, he said.

The latest deaths being attributed to the gas occurred just over one week ago when a father and his two children died at their home in Co Sligo.

Trevor Wallwork (50), his daughter Kim (12) and his son Harry (9) were found dead at their bungalow at Moygara, Gurteen, on December 18th by Mr Wallwork’s older stepdaughter.

Gardaí believe the carbon monoxide that killed the Wallworks came from a fire burning in the room where they were found dead.

Carbon monoxide alarms are commonly available in hardware shops but vary widely in the service they provide.

At the lower end of the price scale they work in a similar way to smoke alarms, where a siren alerts the household to the presence of the gas.

More expensive models can record any emissions which occur so that faults in an appliance can be addressed.Some even allow people to monitor emissions when they are absent from the home.

More information on carbon monoxide is available at carbonmonoxide.ie.