Mebane, NC- Less than eight months after the deaths of a Denver family and college student due to carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, the “Lofgren and Johnson Families Carbon Monoxide Safety Act” goes into effect, offering added protection for families statewide from this odorless, tasteless and invisible gas.

As of July 1 all newly constructed single- and multi-family homes must have a CO alarm installed within 15 feet of bedrooms. Homeowners who sell their residence and existing rental properties upon change of occupancy also must follow this requirement.

Dr. Eric Lavonas, the associate director of Rocky Mountain Poison & Drug Center at Denver Health, applauds the act, and reminds Colorado residents that existing homes are not covered by the new law unless they are on the market.

“The deaths of the Lofgren family and Lauren Johnson showed how serious carbon monoxide poisoning is,” said Lavonas. “Most Colorado homes – 83% – use gas, wood, kerosene, coal or fuel as their major heat source, all of which emit carbon monoxide. Since carbon monoxide is odorless, an alarm is an important safety measure. I urge all homeowners to make sure that they are protected.”

Colorado fire departments responded to more than 1500 CO-related incidents from 2007 until 2008. Nationally, CO poisoning kills 500 people per year and injures another 20,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most poisonings occur during the winter months due to an increased use of fuel-burning appliances. Car exhaust and portable generators also create potential risks.

“In Colorado, winter never seems too far away,” said Leslie Feuerborn, coordinator of Safe Kids Denver Metro. “We hope that families will take the initiative now to install a CO alarm. Doing so could save your life, or the life of a loved one.”

Safety experts recommend installing CO alarms on every level of the home and in sleeping areas. An alarm with a digital display will show the level of CO present, while battery backup will protect families during a power outage. Homeowners should also have their furnaces and fireplaces inspected before cold weather starts and not use un-vented gasoline or kerosene space heaters or generators inside the home.