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Bracamontes & Vlasak, P.C.

San Francisco Office
220 Montgomery Street
Suite 2100
San Francisco, CA 94104

Oakland Office
1901 Harrison Street
Suite 1590
Oakland, CA 94612
Phone: 415.835.6777
San Francisco Personal Injury


Carbon monoxide poisoning is the most common cause of death by poisoning in the United States. While some deaths are caused from smoke inhalation and suicides, many other unexpected deaths and severe injuries arise from faulty, malfunctioning or improperly vented home appliances, such as water heaters, furnaces, space heaters, boilers or cooking equipment. In California alone, approximately forty (40) senseless and preventable deaths occur from carbon monoxide poisoning each year. Nationwide, carbon monoxide kills approximately five-hundred (500) people each year and injures another twenty-thousand (20,000).

What Is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a toxic gas, and since it is by itself odorless and tasteless it can be difficult to detect. Carbon monoxide is a product of incomplete combustion, often when there is insufficient oxygen supply to enable complete oxidation to carbon dioxide. The process of incomplete combustion, however, can often give off the unique odor of aldehydes, suggesting the presence of CO. Failure to inspect and maintain a water heater or boiler in a home may result in improper burning or ventilation-creating dangerous levels of carbon monoxide.

Schedule a free consultation with an attorney at Bracamontes & Vlasak, P.C., if you or a loved one has suffered carbon monoxide poisoning. Call 415.835.6777 today.

The current Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) permissible exposure limit to carbon monoxide is 50 parts per million. That said, there is no safe or normal level of carbon monoxide and prolonged exposure should be avoided. At high levels, carbon monoxide can cause unconsciousness and death or permanent injury.

If you feel that you are being exposed to carbon monoxide, you should get out of the house immediately and call 911, your local fire department and/or PG&E, and seek prompt medical attention.

Signs And Symptoms Of Carbon Monoxide Exposure And Poisoning

Carbon monoxide is an asphyxiant in humans causing tissue hypoxia and reducing the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood. Signs and symptoms of acute exposure to carbon monoxide include: headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, vertigo, weakness, lethargy, confusion, heaviness in limbs, irritability, unconsciousness, convulsions, and in persons with pre-existing heart disease and/or atherosclerosis, chest pain and/or leg pain. Severe or prolonged exposure can cause permanent injury, including memory loss, neurological damage, and cardiovascular conditions.

Although a blood test for carboxyhemoglobin levels will determine the levels of carbon monoxide in the blood at the time of the test, a blood test alone is often not sufficient to determine whether carbon monoxide poisoning has already occurred and if more lasting or permanent injuries may have been sustained. If you feel that you have been exposed to carbon monoxide at severe levels or for a prolonged time, it is important that you consult the appropriate medical specialist, such as a toxicologist, neurologist, or cardiologist, to rule out the possibility of lasting or permanent injury.

If you have been exposed to severe or lasting levels of carbon monoxide, it is important that you get the right medical and legal assistance and counsel.

The Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act of 2010

On May 7, 2010, Governor Schwarzenegger signed into California law the Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act of 2010 (SB 183). This new law and addition to the California Health and Safety Code will help protect tenants and families by requiring owners to install carbon monoxide detectors in all dwelling units intended for human occupancy containing a fossil fuel burning heater or appliance, fireplace, or an attached garage. Carbon monoxide detectors shall be installed in single family homes on or before July 1, 2011, and in all other dwelling units, including hotels, condos, and multi-unit apartment buildings, on or before January 1, 2013.

Violations of the new Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act will be infractions punishable by a maximum fine of two hundred dollars ($200) for each offense; however property owners will be given a 30-day notice to correct as a chance to avoid the fine. Local ordinances may be enacted as consistent with the new state law.

Health and Safety Code Section 17926.1 specifically applies the requirements of the Act to landlords who rent dwelling units to tenants. Landlords may enter units for purposes of installing or maintaining carbon monoxide detectors with notice pursuant to Section 1954 of the Civil Code. Pursuant to the Act, carbon monoxide devices shall be operable when the tenant takes possession of the unit.

The Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act of 2010 represents significant progress in tenant and consumer rights and doubtlessly will save lives. Awareness and compliance, however, must be stressed. If you live in a residential unit without a carbon monoxide detector, you should install one immediately and/or make your landlord aware of the new California requirement.

The San Francisco Boiler Inspection Program

Many unfortunate carbon monoxide poisoning incidents in California, the Bay Area, and San Francisco occur due to a landlord’s or property owner’s negligent failure to regularly inspect and maintain the steam or domestic hot water boiler systems providing heat or hot water to a building. These incidents are often preventable when landlords and property owners follow the law.

Pursuant to the California Mechanical Code and San Francisco Boiler Inspection Program (San Francisco Ordinance 163-93), owners of property or their agents are required to obtain a permit to install and operate low pressure boilers in San Francisco residential buildings. The San Francisco Boiler Inspection Program applies to domestic hot water boilers having a volume exceeding 120 gallons or a heat input exceeding 200,000 btu/h, and to steam-heating boilers furnishing steam at pressures not exceeding 15 psi.

A permit to operate a boiler in San Francisco must be renewed annually and requires yearly inspections by a licensed C-4 boiler contractor. Permits to operate must be placed conspicuously near the boiler. The San Francisco Department of Building Inspection is in charge of enforcing the Boiler Program and issues notices of violation to property owners not in compliance.

More generally, a landlord also has a duty to keep the premises in a safe, clean, and habitable condition. California Civil Code § 1941. Specifically, a landlord is responsible for ensuring that the heating, plumbing, and gas facilities conform to applicable building code standards and are maintained in good working order. California Civil Code § 1941.1.

When You Should Call An Attorney Immediately

If you have been the victim of carbon monoxide exposure and poisoning due to a negligent landlord or faulty home appliance, such as a water heater, boiler, space heater, or cooking device, you should contact an experienced San Francisco carbon monoxide lawyer at Bracamontes & Vlasak, P.C., today to discuss your legal options. Personal injury actions in California generally have a statute of limitations of two (2) years. However, it is important to act quickly to ensure time for proper investigation and preservation of evidence.

The law firm of Bracamontes & Vlasak, P.C., has experience and success in prosecuting personal injury, carbon monoxide poisoning lawsuits for tenants in San Francisco. See our Client Testimonials and Firm News for examples of our outstanding results.

For a free consultation regarding your carbon monoxide case, call Bracamontes & Vlasak, P.C., at 415.835.6777 contact us by email.

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