Release date: May 20, 2004
Release number: 04-141

Release Details

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) today released a new staff report (pdf) announcing that reports of generator-related carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning deaths doubled in recent years. In 2003, CPSC had reports of 36 deaths from CO poisoning associated with portable generators. In 2002, there were 40 deaths reported. This was a 100 percent increase from the reported 18 deaths in 2001 and 20 deaths in 2000. From 1990 through 2003, 228 CO poisoning deaths associated with portable generators were reported to CPSC. CPSC staff held a forum today to discuss the new data and possible ways to reduce the risk from generators.

"If you use a gasoline-powered generator, set it up outside in a dry area, away from air intakes to the home," said CPSC Chairman Hal Stratton. "Opening doors and windows or operating fans to ventilate will not prevent CO build-up in the home. Even with a CO alarm, you should never use a gasoline-powered generator inside your home or in a garage."

At today's forum, CPSC staff described the typical hazard scenarios in which generator-related CO poisoning deaths occurred. About 40 percent of the deaths (89) occurred during the winter months. Almost 70 percent of the deaths occurred at home, often with the generator in a basement/crawlspace or in a garage/enclosed carport. About 26 percent of fatal generator incidents involved more than one death. Adults ages 25 and older accounted for about 80 percent of CO poisoning deaths associated with portable generators. The majority (72 percent) of the victims were male. "Virtually all of these CO poisoning deaths could have been prevented by keeping the generator away from the home or attached garage," Stratton said.

Attendees at the forum included generator and engine manufacturers, voluntary standards organizations, consumer groups, retailers, state/local health officials, and medical professionals. These groups discussed technical approaches and public awareness strategies to reduce the CO risk and also emphasized that a generator must never be used in a home, garage, basement, or crawlspace. CPSC has more details about the safe use of generators at: www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/portgen.html

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