Portable Generator causes Carbon Monoxide Death in Chicago, with two others seriously injured on Saturday. Late last night I wrote a blog about a portable generator carbon monoxide death in Kingsport, Tennessee that happened three weeks ago. In my last thoughts in that blog, I predicted I would be writing about it today, then realized that two had died in Minnesota over the weekend. That was a portable generator carbon monoxide death where two people were killed in a camper by a portable electric generator. Before I got a chance to write about that incident, I learned of this portable generator carbon monoxide death in Chicago.

Portable generator carbon monoxide deaths

Despite this proposed rule from the CPSC, Portable generator carbon monoxide deaths keep happening. This time in Chicago where one is dead and two others are hospitalized.

According to the Chicago Tribune and other sources, one woman was pronounced dead at the scene of this latest in a string of fatalities dead on the scene. In addition, two other adults were taken to hospitals with severe carbon monoxide poisoning. Hopefully those individuals got Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy. For the Tribune story, click here.

From the Tribune:

Emergency crews were called to a home in the 11300 block of South Church Street in the Morgan Park neighborhood about 9:15 p.m. and found 62-year-old Linda Russell, another woman and a man who were sickened by the fumes, according to officials.

Russell, who lived at the Church Street address, was pronounced dead on the scene at 9:48 p.m., the medical examiner’s office said.

High carbon monoxide levels were found in the home and an autopsy confirmed that the cause of Linda Russell’s death was carbon monoxide poisoning.

Area South detectives in Chicago are conducting a death investigation. Hopefully that investigation will turn to the manufacturer of the portable electric generator. We know we don’t know of all the recent incidents, but the ones we know of include:

This must stop. The U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission has been trying to stop it since 2002. Despite Notice of Advanced Rulemaking in 2006 and the Proposed Rulemaking in 2016, it continues on unabated. Litigation against the generator manufacturers is the only option. As we said yesterday, only a products liability case where the generator manufacturers are made to account for this continued carnage can do what the regulators have not been able to do: make these machines as safe from carbon monoxide poisoning as cars have been for a generation.

Shortly after the CPSC started their rule making process, the manufacturers of marine generators eliminated 99% of the carbon monoxide from marine generators. That was in 2006. Yet in 2017, those portable electric generators are still being made even though that the uninformed public will continue to use them in place and under circumstances that will kill. And it is not just the person who misuses this product who dies or is disabled. It is often completely innocent family members. Those people need a voice, they need that voice to call the generator manufacturers to account.

Who are the manufacturers of portable electric generators? The leading manufacturers are all members of an organization called the PGMA, for Portable Fenerators Manufacturers Association. See http://www.pgmaonline.com/ These companies manufacture gas powered generators that have internal combustion engines that run dirty, so dirty they can poison a soccer area sized building. The CPSC has been asking them for a decade to make them not as clean as cars, which have a 99% reduction in carbon monoxide emissions. The CPSC is only asking for 93%. The PGMA continues to lobby that such is not in the public interest.

Generator carbon monoxide deaths have taken  751 lives in the ten years studied by the CPSC shown in the above graph. 25,000 more received treatment for injuries in these events. There can be no benefits in the public interest that could outweight that death toll. Yet apparently only litigation will frame the public policy debate in a way the generator manufacturers realize that their profits are not worth this harm.

Attorney Gordon Johnson


P.S. Since we posted this, there is another story that came across the wire: http://toronto.ctvnews.ca/woman-young-child-treated-for-carbon-monoxide-poisoning-in-bowmanville-1.3445347


10 replies
  1. Mac McIntyre
    Mac McIntyre says:

    Small engines have been in use for years. Portable generators like all other small engines produce smoke and yes, carbon monoxide. They are also accompanied by an abundance of safety warnings! Prohibiting or regulating an item like this is not the answer when Darwin has you in his sights.

    I resent having such useful things banned or grossly regulated due to others ignorance or total stupidity. This is why we have warning labels on hot coffee!


    • Attorney Gordon Johnson
      Attorney Gordon Johnson says:

      Requiring generator manufacturers to clean up carbon monoxide emissions is not grossly regulating anymore than it was to do so on cars. Marine generators meet these standards and one manufacturer is already making such generators. TTI.

  2. Matt Bennett
    Matt Bennett says:

    This is sad for sure but are the generator manufacturers really to blame? The instructions for every major portable generator are super clear. The risks of carbon monoxide poisoning are very real but it’s 100% avoidable if you follow the instructions!

    You should never operate a generator inside and it should always be at least 15 feet away from open windows or doors. That said, I really can’t argue with the idea of getting manufacturers to make them cleaner with lower carbon monoxide emissions.

    • Attorney Gordon Johnson
      Attorney Gordon Johnson says:

      How long the extension cord outside a residence needs to be is never something that experts seem to agree on but generally 20 feet is the recommended minimum. But what this theory of exculpation of the generator manufacturers fails to take into account is that in a high majority of cases when people are using a portable electric generator, there is a concern that the generator will be stolen. Picture the situation after the recent hurricanes. Leave your generator outside and it will get stolen. The manufacturers and their trade association have known about this theft risk for as long as the CPSC has been considering these mandates for cleaner CO exhaust, yet they haven’t added something as easy to design as a locking key to run the generator.

  3. Ann Moody
    Ann Moody says:

    So sad to hear! It is high time that strict laws to be established to check the quality of generator manufacturers and ensure the safety of people. It is so sad and heart-throbbing that innocent people are losing their lives due to such cases and this is not a rare care, instead. Consumers are to be well informed and taught clearly about the maintenance tips and how to use these and the do’s and dont’s.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] Last Saturday one was killed and two others poisoned in Chicago’s Morgan Park neighborhood. We blogged about it here: https://carbonmonoxide.com/2017/06/portable-generator-carbon-monoxide-death-chicago.html […]

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