Know Carbon Monoxide Dangers Before the Power Goes Out
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As hurricane season blows in, consumers need to be
aware of the many dangers associated with severe weather. The U.S.
Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) urges consumers to protect
themselves and their families not only during, but after the storm.
In 2005, CPSC received reports of at least 64 people who died from
carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning associated with portable generators.
Portable gas generators, often used by consumers to restore power to
their homes and businesses in the aftermath of a storm, produce high
levels of odorless, poisonous CO. CPSC warns consumers that generators
should be used outdoors only, far from doors, windows, and vents that
could allow CO to come indoors.
Porter Novelli "Healthstyles" surveys (Porter Novelli's 2005 and 2006
HealthStyles mail survey was conducted among approximately 10,000 adults
age 18 and older using Synovate's Consumer Opinion Panel. Analyses were
conducted at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention under a
licensing agreement with Porter Novelli) of more than 10,000 adults
found dangerous misconceptions about generator safety. The surveys found
that most respondents (62 percent) believe it is safe to run a generator
in a garage as long as the garage door is open. Many (47 percent) also
believe it is safe to run a generator in a basement as long as a window
is open. But both scenarios have caused deaths.
Even in a garage with the door open, CO can accumulate rapidly and seep
into the home, overpowering sleeping occupants. CPSC warns consumers
never to use a generator inside homes, garages, crawlspaces, sheds, or
similar areas, even with ventilation. CPSC estimates the amount of CO
produced by just one generator is equal to the CO produced by hundreds
of idling cars.
"Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless poison gas. It is an
invisible killer," said CPSC Acting Chairman Nancy Nord. "While
generators can come in handy after a storm, using one indoors can kill
you and your family in minutes."
Deaths associated with CO from portable generators have risen in recent
years. In 1999, generators were involved with 6% of the total yearly
estimated CO poisoning deaths associated with all consumer products
compared to 24% in 2002.
CPSC has taken major steps to alert and safeguard consumers who use
portable generators. CPSC mandated that all generators manufactured or
imported on or after May 14, 2007, bear a prominent DANGER label to warn
consumers about CO and encourage safe use.
CPSC is also pursuing rulemaking to develop performance requirements or
other strategies to lower the risk of CO poisoning associated with
The agency has posted a new alert on its Web site, www.cpsc.gov, with
tips for consumers on safe generator use.