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This Hurricane Season, Protect Your Family from CO Poisoning and Other Post-Storm Dangers

Release Date: May 17, 2022

African Americans at Higher Risk for Generator-Related CO Death 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – June 1 marks the start of the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is warning consumers about the increased risk of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, fires and electric shock after hurricanes and severe storms hit. 

“It takes only one hurricane to cause massive destruction and loss of life,” said CPSC Chair Alex Hoehn-Saric. “That is why I urge consumers to follow CPSC’s safety tips to be prepared ahead of storms and to keep safe after storms have passed.” 

Consumers need to be especially careful when storms knock out electrical power. Gasoline-powered portable generators can create an increased risk of CO poisoning that can kill in minutes. CO is called the invisible killer because it is colorless and odorless. CO poisoning from portable generators can happen so quickly that exposed persons may become unconscious before recognizing the symptoms of nausea, dizziness or weakness.  

CPSC data show African Americans are at higher risk of death 

CPSC estimates that approximately 80 U.S. consumers die each year from CO poisoning caused by portable generators. The latest CPSC report shows that African Americans are at higher risk, accounting for 22 percent of generator-related CO deaths from 2010 through 2020, nearly double their estimated 13 percent share of the U.S. population.  

Consumers who plan to use a portable generator if there is a power loss should follow these tips: 

Loss of Power—Using a Generator Safely 

  • Never operate a portable generator inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace, shed or on the porch. Opening doors or windows will not provide enough ventilation to prevent the buildup of lethal levels of CO.  

  • Operate portable generators outside only, at least 20 feet away from the house, and direct the generator’s exhaust away from the home and any other buildings that someone could enter.   

  • Check that portable generators have had proper maintenance, and read and follow the labels, instructions and warnings on the generator and in the owner’s manual.   

  • Ask retailers for portable generators that shut off automatically when high levels of CO are present. Some models with CO shut-off also have reduced emissions. These models may or may not be advertised as certified to the latest safety standards for portable generators - PGMA G300-2018 and UL 2201. 

Check CO and Smoke Alarms   

  • Install battery-operated CO alarms or CO alarms with battery backup on each level and outside separate sleeping areas at home. 

  • Make sure smoke alarms are installed on every level and inside each bedroom at home.   

  • Test CO and smoke alarms monthly to make sure they are working properly and replace batteries, if needed. Never ignore an alarm when it sounds. Get outside immediately. Then call 911. 

Dangers with Charcoal and Candles   

  • Never use charcoal indoors. Burning charcoal in an enclosed space can produce lethal levels of carbon monoxide. Do not cook on a charcoal grill in a garage, even with the door open.

  • Use caution when burning candles. Use flashlights instead. If using candles, do not burn them on or near anything that can catch fire. Never leave burning candles unattended. Extinguish candles when leaving the room and before sleeping. 

Dangers with Wet Appliances:

  • Look for signs that your appliances have gotten wet. Do not touch wet appliances that are still plugged into an electrical source. 

  • Before using your appliances, have a professional or your gas or electric company evaluate them for safety. Replace all gas control valves, electrical wiring, circuit breakers and fuses that have been under water. 

Dangers with Gas Leaks:  

  • If you smell or hear gas leaking, leave your home immediately and contact local gas authorities from outside the home. Do not operate any electronics, such as lights or phone, before leaving. 

Remember, it takes only one storm to wreak havoc causing mass destruction and loss of life.  Stay informed, be prepared and keep safe! 

CPSC resources: 

PSA – Hurricane Safety Tips (English) 

PSA – Hurricane Safety Tips (Spanish) 

Poster – Carbon Monoxide (CO) the Invisible Killer 

Carbon Monoxide Safety Center 

Link to broadcast quality video for media: 

CPSC spokespeople are available for interviews. Email or call 240-204-4410 to arrange for an interview.

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About the U.S. CPSC
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risk of injury or death associated with the use of thousands of types of consumer products. Deaths, injuries, and property damage from consumer product-related incidents cost the nation more than $1 trillion annually. CPSC's work to ensure the safety of consumer products has contributed to a decline in the rate of injuries associated with consumer products over the past 50 years. 

Federal law prohibits any person from selling products subject to a Commission ordered recall or a voluntary recall undertaken in consultation with the CPSC.

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Spanish: (301) 504-7800

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