HR 1690 would require carbon monoxide (CO) alarms or detectors in federally funded housing projects. Specifically, this bill would amend several housing acts, such as the United States Housing Act of 1937, to include language that requires CO alarms or detectors to be installed, in accordance with the standards published in sections nine and eleven of the International Fire Code, in public housing, housing receiving tenant-based assistance and building assistance, supportive housing for the elderly, rural housing, supportive housing for persons with disabilities, and supportive housing for persons with AIDS. This bill would also require the Department of Housing and Urban Development to provide guidance to public housing agencies on methods for educating tenants on health hazards in the home, such as CO poisoning, lead poisoning, asthma induced by housing-related allergens, and other housing-related preventable outcomes. The provisions regarding adherence to the International Fire Code for CO alarms and detectors would take effect two years after enactment of this bill.
According to the bill, a majority of residents in federally assisted housing are families with small children, elderly, and persons with disabilities, and these residents are particularly vulnerable to the short- and long-term effects of exposure to CO. As stated in this bill, federal housing programs defer to state or local codes rather than requiring CO alarms directly. Currently, 27 states and the District of Columbia require CO detectors in private dwellings via a state statute. Another eleven states require CO detectors in private dwellings through either adoption of the International Residential Code or amendment to the state building code.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), CO is a colorless, odorless gas that can lead to suffocation in enclosed spaces. CO is produced from the burning of hydrocarbon fuels, such as in stoves, engines, and gas heaters. CO binds with oxygen receptors in the lungs and prevents those receptors from binding oxygen, which is needed for healthy organ function. The CDC also reports that at lower concentrations CO poisoning results in flu-like symptoms, such as headaches, dizziness, vomiting, and chest pain, while at higher concentrations CO poisoning can result in seizures, arrhythmia, loss of consciousness, and death. Long-term anoxia, which is a shortage of oxygen in the blood, caused by CO affects brain functions and can impair memory, cognitive abilities, and behavior. A CO alarm measures the CO level inside a home and alerts residents when the level becomes hazardous.