SPRINGFIELD - A new state law will require carbon monoxide detectors by the start of next year in almost every house and apartment in Illinois. Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed the law Monday, which requires the instruments within 15 feet of every bedroom. “There's just no other way that you're going to know whether the levels are high in your house or not,” said Patti Thompson, a state fire marshal spokeswoman. “It can really make a life or death difference.” The carbon monoxide detector requirement will be similar to those for smoke detectors, Thompson said. “A CO detector can actually be placed anywhere in the home,” said Larry Ball, an inspector for the Decatur fire department. “Carbon monoxide is about the same weight as air, so it's not like a smoke detector where you have to place it high in the room.” Ball said firefighters frequently respond to carbon monoxide alarms. Carbon monoxide detectors, which can be found at most general merchandise and hardware stores, start at about $20 with more advanced models costing around $100. Ball recommends getting a combination carbon monoxide and smoke detector. “It gives you an early warning, just like smoke detection,” Ball said. “Your nose goes to sleep when you go to sleep, so you don't necessarily smell the smoke, just the like the CO. It's colorless, it's odorless. The only way to know that it's going to be there at a dangerous level is if you have symptoms and then it could be too late.” Symptoms include shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness, lightheadedness and headaches. High levels of carbon monoxide can be fatal. Thompson said the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are similar to the flu. “Often people think they might have something else when actually it's carbon monoxide poisoning,” Thompson said. “So if you have that detector, it can let you know immediately that the levels are too high and that you have to get out of the house.” Carbon monoxide is given off from incomplete burning of certain fuels commonly found in the house for heating and cooking or from vehicles that are left running in an attached garage. Under the new law, failing to install or maintain a carbon monoxide alarm can be punished with up to six months in jail and a $1,500 fine. Tampering with, removing, destroying, disconnecting or removing the batteries from the device could land a resident up to a year in jail and $2,500 in fines for a first offense. Additional violations could mean three years in jail and a $25,000 fine. Chicago and St. Louis already have similar requirements, as do eight other states. Since battery powered alarms were first made available in the 1970's, the National Fire Protection Association reports the home fire death rate has been cut in half. On average, 200-300 deaths are reported each year nationally from unintentional carbon monoxide deaths. “Even cutting that in half would save quite a few lives,” Thompson said. The legislation is House Bill 5284. Chris Lusvardi can be reached at chris.lusvardi@lee. net or (217) 789-0865.