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CPSC releases critical information on carbon monoxide poisoning

Do you or any of your loved ones use a portable generator for any reason? Does your residential building or employer use one of these devices? If so, it is critical that you safeguard yourself from these potentially defective or dangerous products. Portable generators can be literal lifesavers during power outages for vulnerable populations who require electricity for medical care. However, they can also become silent killers under certain circumstances.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), portable generators caused more than 85 percent of all deaths linked to carbon monoxide poisoning over the past 14 years and primarily since 2005 that were not directly tied to fires and were associated with tools that are engine-driven. Put simply, 800 out of 931 related fatalities over this time period were caused by portable generators. Of those deaths, nearly 75 percent were men and African Americans were disproportionately affected. In addition, nearly 75 percent of deaths occurred within fixed-structure homes.

Why do portable generators pose such a health risk to the public? They are so hazardous primarily because their engines are fuel-burning and their exhaust contains high levels of carbon monoxide. When these generators emit exhaust fumes in enclosed spaces, the odorless carbon monoxide can quickly overwhelm any inhabitants.

As a result, it is critical that anyone using these generators operate them in a well-ventilated outdoor space. Ideally, these products should only be used outside and at least 20 feet from a residence, according to the CPSC. Failure to adhere to these restrictions could cost you your life.

Source: U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, “Winter Warning: Portable Generators Hold Top Spot in CPSC Report on Carbon Monoxide Deaths & Incidents,” Dec. 19, 2013

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