I haven’t blogged about power outages and carbon monoxide poisoning in too long. It is winter here. The perceived risks comes from malfunctioning furnaces, not power outages and carbon monoxide. But I live in Wisconsin and Chicago. We get typical winter blizzards, not Atlantic Storms. I know that Atlantic storms mean carbon monoxide poisoning. Every time there is a major hurricane, there is a spike in the number of electric generator related carbon monoxide poisonings. People operate portable generators either inside their house or garage, or too close to their house and garage. For a list we made last spring on these events, click here.

Sometimes these stories don’t make it to the news media at the time of occurrence because the storm itself clogs the headlines. Sometimes, they don’t make the headlines because they only involve people getting sick, not fatalities. For everyone who dies of carbon monoxide poisoning from a portable electric generator, there are more than 50 people who are poisoned by carbon monoxide and survive See Hampson, CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING FROM PORTABLE ELECTRICAL GENERATORS:

Acute, severe CO poisoning from portable electric generators is common in the United States, likely affecting an estimated 4,000 individuals annually, occurring predominantly in residential settings.

Four thousand cases of poisoning from one simple cause: generator manufacturers who don’t care how dangerous the machines they make are because they continue to delude themselves that these machines will be used inside basements, garages or too near dwellings.

That delusion is proven wrong thousands of times a year. It was proven wrong in suburban New York City when 10 people were hospitalized when they lost power because of the winter storm that swept across the East Coast. See https://www.lohud.com/story/news/local/westchester/north-castle/2018/03/07/north-castle-generator-home-sickens-people/403362002/

There could be many more such cases that aren’t making the news or the victims don’t know they are getting poisoned. One might think that if you don’t know you are getting poisoned then, what is the big deal? By the time a person becomes clearly ill from carbon monoxide, their COHb levels are well above 10%.

COHb levels are the percentage of carbon monoxide in the blood. When carbon monoxide is in the blood, oxygen isn’t as it takes the place of oxygen. Thus, cells become starved for oxygen.

By the time a person is stuporous, as in the North White Plains, New York poisoning, blood levels are likely above 25%. Research has shown that more than 40% of those who COHb levels exceed 10% are at risk of long term problems from carbon monoxide poisoning, including brain damage. Statistically, 4 of the 10 survivors in North White Plains are likely to be disabled by this generator.

Poorly Designed Generators Cause Carbon Monoxide

It is time to stop the connection between power outages and carbon monoxide poisoning. The solution is to force the generator manufacturers to make their machines as low on carbon monoxide as automobiles. Many of these manufacturers, such as Honda, also make engines that have electronic fuel injection and catalytic converters. A modern engine can eliminate nearly all of the carbon monoxide risks. But the Consumer Products Safety Commission has been trying to mandate this change since 2002. Politics keep standing in the way of saving lives. At this point, only lawyers are going to force change. If you or your loved one has been harmed by an electric generator, it is time to do something. Talk to a lawyer about a products liability lawsuit against the manufacturer.

Generator manufacturers have the responsibility to make their products reasonably safe. These generators kill 75 people a year and hospitalize 4,000. A product that has these known risk factors is not safe. Government isn’t going to stop this. Only litigation can.

Attorney Gordon Johnson

Another horrific carbon monoxide detector story – the Perth Amboy carbon monoxide death was so easily avoidable. All that was needed was working carbon monoxide detectors. Blame the occupants? No. Blame the manufacturers of these detectors who rely on batteries that need to be replaced every six months instead of every year.

Most state laws, including New Jersey’s, require that all residences have carbon monoxide detectors. But the flaw in these regulations, which is directly attributable to neglect by the manufacturers of detectors, is that it does not require a 10-year battery in each of those detectors. For more on the New Jersey law click here.

The dead batteries tragedy seems unavoidable. But it is not. Most manufacturers are making carbon monoxide detectors that have ten year batteries. I have carried such a carbon monoxide detector with me for years. You can buy these detectors on Amazon, click here to see all the offerings.

Perth Amboy Carbon Monoxide dead batteries

The Perth Amboy Carbon Monoxide death and poisonings could have been avoided with a 10-year lithium battery carbon monoxide poisoning.

What Happened in Perth Amboy Carbon Monoxide Tragedy

According to the story on ABCNY.com, there were at least three non-working detectors in the multi-family Perth Amboy Carbon Monoxide incident. http://abc7ny.com/13-year-old-girl-dies-several-others-injured-by-carbon-monoxide-poisoning-in-nj/2863323 As reported there:

“A 13-year-old girl died and at least 35 others were injured in an apparent incident of carbon monoxide poisoning in New Jersey.

It happened on Thursday evening inside a three-story residential building on Fayette Street in Perth Amboy.

The girl was rushed to the hospital, but died.

35 other victims, including 7 officers, were evaluated and treated for CO poisoning. Many of the victims were children, seen passing out and getting lightheaded.


According to the story, six of the victims of this poisoning were unconscious when they reached the hospital. While nothing is known yet about their condition, we certainly hope that all the significantly poisoned survivors are getting hyperbaric oxygen therapy. There is no question that severely carbon monoxide poisoned survivors have much better outcomes if they received hyperbaric oxygen therapy. With so many victims, it may be difficult to get all the survivors such therapy, but even those who did not lose consciousness have a much better chance of avoiding permanent brain damage if the get hyperbaric treatment.

“We immediately knew it was some kind of toxin that was taking everybody over, we knew that if we went in there we would put ourselves in danger, but that’s our jobs, that’s what we need to do to get the people out to be able to do what we need to do and attempt to save their lives,” said Cep. Chief Lawrence Cattano, Perth Amboy Police.

Part of the problem with these battery replacement carbon monoxide detectors is that is what is called for by the Underwriters Laboratory standard, UL UL2034.

Newer CO detectors are being made with lithium batteries which are far more efficient. Lithium batteries conveniently last 10 years which means less upkeep and better chance to minimize deaths caused by carbon monoxide as well as being better for the environment seeing as less batteries will be discarded and require 23 times less nonrenewable natural resources. For the safety of those living in rented properties, landlords should be mandated by UL2034 to provide tenants with carbon monoxide detectors supported by lithium batteries. The cost is minor, they can be purchased at Home Depot for around $40 or $35 for a bundle price. The average carbon monoxide detector without a lithium battery costs around $20 plus the cost of new batteries every year. Lithium battery operated CO detectors are completely feasible and a small price to pay for someone’s life.


Winter is Carbon Monoxide Season – Get Ready

Winter has always been carbon monoxide season, so much so that a 1922 book coined the term “winter headache” for what was undoubtedly carbon monoxide poisoning. Martinet, Alfred, Clinical Diagnosis, Case Examination and the Analysis of Symptoms.

Winter has long been recognized as carbon monoxide season.

From the 1922 book Clinical Diagnosis, Case Examination and the Analysis of Symptoms by Alfred Martinet: “Apparently also belonging in this category is the inveterate winter headache of city dwellers, coextensive with the cold season of the year and artificial heating of the houses, and absent throughout the warmer period and during life in the country.”

One would think since we no longer heat with coal that winter would have stopped being carbon monoxide season. (Most homes in the northern part of the United States use forced air, with gas as the most common fuel.) And while it is true that in raw numbers, the number of people who die from carbon monoxide poisoning is undoubtedly reduced in the last 100 years, there is still much that can go wrong any time you use a fossil fuel, even natural gas, for the “artificial heating of the houses.”
Sometime in this period of late fall, the furnace will have kicked on for the first time. Often times it is early in the heating system that the worst poisonings occur. As with a car that hasn’t been driven for a while, the start up may put stress on parts that have not been used in months.
A thorough seasonal checkup of the HVAC system is always recommended, even for single family homes. In a commercial establishment or a public school, it is the standard of care to have it done by a professional HVAC firm.
With the setting back of the clocks and the end of Daylight Savings Time, it is time to check the batteries in all detectors, both smoke and carbon monoxide. Even those detectors which are hardwired into the house need to have batteries changed every six months.

But it is also important to know that chronic carbon monoxide exposure can still occur during the carbon monoxide season, even if the standard carbon monoxide detectors are working properly. Those detectors are not sensitive enough to mid-level concentrations of carbon monoxide, especially if the leak is occurring day after day. UL 2034, the standard which carbon monoxide detectors are required to alarm, is designed to warn of eminent danger situations, not avoid concentrations where the COHb level may get to be as high as 10%. A level of carbon monoxide in ambient air could be 149 ppm for 3 hours and 59 minutes before the alarm went off. That is a way too much carbon monoxide and if it was happening day after day, we would predict nearly a 75% chance of disability. The analogy would be the difference between a single sport concussion and the lifetime of hits that a football player suffers, leading to CTE.
We recommend that people purchase CO alarms that register levels as low as 10 ppm, immediately.

Severe Carbon Monoxide Poisoning from Portable Electric Generators

We handle all kind of carbon monoxide poisoning cases, but amongst the the most preventable are Severe Carbon Monoxide Poisoning from portable electric generators. The reason severe carbon monoxide poisoning happens from portable electric generators is that these generators have the most deadly the exhaust. We are involved in a case where when we tested the generators, the exhaust spewed out 87,000 ppm. That number was in accordance with manufacturer’s specs. Most emergency responders have meters that only go to 2,000 ppm. (When you see a 2,000 ppm reported, it is almost always because that was as high as the meter went.)

Severe carbon monoxide poisoning from cars

The frequency that car exhaust is the cause of severe carbon monoxide poisoning has been drastically reduced since EPA emissions mandated carbon monoxide reductions.

In contrast, a car exhaust might be as low as 87 ppm, only twice what a properly functioning natural gas furnace might produce. Why one might ask is a small 5KW engine, about the size of what you might put on a lawn mower, producing CO levels hundreds of times more deadly than a car exhaust? It is because the portable electric generator manufacturers have ignored two generations of improved technology in reducing carbon monoxide emissions.

What are the consequences of these severe poisonings carbon monoxide poisonings? We did some research in medical journals and here is what we found. According to Hampson, The Journal of Emergency Medicine, Vol. 49, No. 2, pp. 125–129, 2015:

  • Acute, severe CO poisoning from portable electric generators likely affects an estimated 4000 individuals annually, occurring predominantly in residential settings.
  • Blood carboxyhemoglobin levels averaged 22.7. These are severe levels. Anything over 10% COHb levels come with more than a 40% risk of permanent brain damage.
  • 24% demonstrated evidence of cardiac ischemia.

Thus the risk factors of severe carbon monoxide poisoning from portable electric generators include not just brain damage but heart and other organ damage. When people die from severe carbon monoxide poisoning, they usually die from heart attack. The more vulnerable the person’s cardiovascular system is, the more likely they are to die from severe carbon monoxide poisoning.

If you are curious as to who makes these generators, click here. 

Church of God Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Survivors at Risk of Long Term Brain Damage

In yesterday’s blog about the Iowa church carbon monoxide poisoning, we mentioned that the 20 survivors of carbon monoxide poisoning may have a worse outcome than those who survived the shooting the church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas on the same day. The headlines all went to the horrific event in Texas but those who survived the Church of God carbon monoxide poisoning may face worse long term prospects than those who are in surgery for gunshot wounds.

Church of God carbon monoxide poisoning

This warning label on a portable electric generator isn’t sufficient to prevent tragedies such as the Church of God carbon monoxide poisoning.

Statistically, at least 40 per cent of those who survive carbon monoxide poisoning are likely to have ongoing problems, most of which can be directly attributed to brain damage.  The Church of God carbon monoxide poisoning survivors not only have to overcome the direct effects of lack of oxygen to their brains and other vital organs, but they must also fight off the long-term effects of the poisoning.

Double Trouble for Church of God Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Survivors

Hypoxia is the technical term for what happens when the cells in the body are deprived of oxygen. Inhaling carbon monoxide deprives the body of oxygen because carbon monoxide will take the place of oxygen in the hemoglobin. Thus, when blood is circulated to the cells, carboxyhemoglobin instead of oxygen will reach the cells, potentially strangling the cells for oxygen. When the concentration of carbon monoxide in the blood reaches above 40%, the heart will often stop. This is the cause of death in most cases.

But if the heart doesn’t stop from lack of oxygen, the person exposed to carbon monoxide will likely survive. Too often it is thought that this ends the risk factors, but it does not. What is also happening in addition to the hypoxia risk, is the bodies defensive reaction to the poison. Like a bee sting can cause the body to have an over-reaction such as anaphylactic shock, the body can also over-react to this poison and cause more damage than the initial lack of oxygen.

For the 20 Church of God carbon monoxide poisoning survivors, it is not Sunday’s illness that is critical, but the illness that will linger and perhaps get stronger over the next days and weeks. The illness, often referred to as Delay Neurological Syndrome or DNS, happens to in excess of 40% of the people exposed to carbon monoxide. For more on DNS, click here. As the levels in the Marshalltown Church of God were so high, at least 8 of those exposed can be expected to have permanent brain damage.

We have been crusading to force the manufacturers of portable electric generators to reduce the emissions in these dangerous products for this entire year. I testified in front of the federal Consumer Products Safety Commission about the need to reduce the carbon monoxide emissions from portable electric generators in March. Yet, that federal regulations have stalled because of industry pressure. Only lawsuits can force change.

Portable electric generators emit hundreds of times more carbon monoxide than an equivalent car. Cars reduced carbon monoxide emissions by 99% over the last two generations, but portable electric generators have not reduced emissions. Running an electric generator in a basement of the Church of God is equivalent to running several hundred 2017 cars and pumping all that exhaust into the church.

Generator manufacturers have a duty to use modern technology to make these products safe. They refuse to do so, even though they claim to know how to do it. The death of one in the Church of God is a horrible tragedy. But we can’t only focus on that one death or even the death of 751 people over a decade. We must also focus on the 20 who survived because they may face a lifetime of disability and brain damage. Are the portable electric generators manufacturers making a calculation that they can afford the litigation over 75 deaths a year? Perhaps. But what about the 20 Church of God carbon monoxide poisoning survivors? Can they afford that litigation too?

Only lawsuits can change this calculus. Now is the time.

For more on the long term consequences for the survivors of carbon monoxide poisoning from portable electric generators, see this 2005 article. Hampson, Am J Prev Med. 2005 Jan;28(1):123-5. Yes. That was a 2005 article. Tomorrow’s blog will discuss the 2015 updates to that research by Dr. Hampson.

Attorney Gordon Johnson


On the same day when a killer with a gun stalked a church in Texas, an equally deadly foe sent at least 15 at an Iowa church to the hospital with carbon monoxide poisoning. Sunday November 5, 2017 was the day that 26 people died in Sutherland Springs, Texas, where about 20 additional were injured. In the Iowa church carbon monoxide poisoning, at least 15 were sickened. The Iowa church carbon monoxide poisoning happened at the Church of God in at 305 E. South St., Marshalltown, Iowa, a city of about 27,000, half way between Des Moines and Waterloo, Iowa. Click here for the Iowa Church carbon monoxide poisoning story.

The weapon in Texas was a semi-automatic weapon.  In Iowa, it was a  electric generator, set up in the Church basement. Today, Washington is full of calls for greater regulation of the first weapon. Unfortunately, the call to stop the silent killer is being lost in the administrative shuffle. We have known for as long as I have been alive that electric generators kill almost every month. There were 751 electric generator deaths between 2004 and 2014 according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (the “CPSC”.) The CPSC has been trying to put a stop to these killings since 2002, but have been ignored and blocked by the generator industry ever since.

Iowa church carbon monoxide poisoning might have been stopped if this proposed regulation became law.

The Iowa church carbon monoxide poisoning is just one more case of electric generator deaths. Despite this proposed rule from the CPSC, generator carbon monoxide deaths keep happening.

I testified to the CPSC this year about the necessity of these regulations. In that testimony I argued it wasn’t just about the deaths, but the lifetime of disability that could come from these poisonings. Probabilities are that the 20 injured in the Iowa church carbon monoxide poisoning will have worse outcomes than the 20 injured in the Texas church shooting.

Iowa Church Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Preventable

These stories are connected. Both require regulation. Both involve dangerous products that should be banned. The Second Amendment protects the manufacturers of semi-automatic weapons from litigation. But there is no constitutional right to continue to manufacture deadly machines such as portable electric generators.

Iowa church carbon monoxide poisoning is another case like those Gordon Johnson testified about in front of the U.S. Consumer Products Liability Commission with respect to the dangers of portable generators. Attorney Johnson was the only personal injury attorney asked to participate in this public hearing for the new CPSC regulation on carbon monoxide emissions.

This Iowa church carbon monoxide poisoning could be the turning point against portable electric generators. It must be. The only solution is for those who survive and their family members to go after the manufacturer of that generator, the retailer who sold that generator. We know how dangerous these machines are. We know how to make them safe. It is time to fight back and put an end to this death and mayhem.

I called for this to happen last spring after a series of weeks where it seemed that each week there was another generator related death. The industry didn’t hear, because no one sued them over these deaths. I am going to start calling for this to stop again, hopefully louder. The civil justice system is the only solution to a problem that the CPSC has been unable to stop on its own.

For our earlier blogs: https://carbonmonoxide.com/2017/06/generator-carbon-monoxide-events.html

Hurricane season of course has added many events since I compiled this list in June. Who knows how many may have died in Puerto Rico. Check back. I will retell this story in even stronger terms than I did months ago, over the next week. It is time for the portable generator industry to start saving lives. “What industry is demanding is a solution to eliminate deaths.” Those are not my words. Those are the words of a leading manufacturer of portable electric generators. Let the Iowa church carbon monoxide poisoning be the event that forced upon industry to “eliminate deaths.”


Attorney Gordon Johnson



Dozen Hospitalized in Mount Olive Carbon Monoxide Incident

Carbon monoxide strikes in the best neighborhoods, strikes indiscriminately to children, adults or even rescue workers. Even Good Samaritan passer byes who save the day may get poisoned is the levels are high enough. That is how a dozen people got hospitalized in the Mount Olive Carbon Monoxide poisoning on Monday, August 14, 2017. Mount Olive is in New Jersey.

High levels left a dozen hospitalized in Mount Olive Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

A dozen hospitalized after Mount Olive carbon monoxide poisoning. Levels reach 1,600 ppm. Video embedded below.

While unconfirmed, reports are that the carbon monoxide ambient air levels in the beautiful single family home in Mount Olive were as high as 1600 ppm. Even an hour in that poisoned environment could kill. That level was high enough to poison rescue workers. Reports are that at least four occupants of the home were so poisoned that they need hyperbaric oxygen therapy to help push the carbon monoxide out of their system.


According to New York CBS local:

Melanie Milo and her boyfriend Afam Nwande were walking along Finnimore Court at 7:30 p.m. Monday when they heard calls for help coming from a man who had just come home to find his entire family passed out inside. Outside the home, the man’s two young children were laying unconscious on the lawn.

“No smell, no odor, just people,” Milo said.

“He says ‘My wife’s in there, I need help carrying her.’ I ran upstairs, she’s at the top of the stairs, I picked her up brought her out and I laid her next to his kids,” Nwande said.


Two young men were found unresponsive in the basement. One was nude, possibly because he fell unconscious in the shower.

Levels as high as were in the home are often referred to as “drop where you stop” levels.

“The one gentleman was on the floor in the bathroom, he was nude, it appears he may have fallen out of the shower, the other one was asleep in a room,” Milo said.

The family sensed something was wrong, but had no idea what it was until hours later. A pool maintenance man got no response at the front door four hours before when he came to do his work. Efforts to alert the family didn’t trigger an alarm.

If there were carbon monoxide detectors inside of the home they should certainly have gone off by the time the levels got to 100 ppm. Investigations as to the cause of the Mount Olive carbon monoxide poisonings are focused on the hot water heater, which is often the culprit in warm weather poisonings.

TriBeCa carbon monoxide poisoning

Carbon monoxide poisoning can strike almost anywhere, including a grocery store. This is the case with the TriBeCa carbon monoxide poisoning.

A carbon monoxide leak in New York City sickened 32 people. The people who were in the building in the TriBeCa carbon monoxide poisoning made it out with minor injuries, according to the American Press. The poisoning occurred at the start of the workday Tuesday morning in a building three blocks from the World Trade Center. The building was a grocery store, which had extremely high levels of carbon monoxide. The readings were off the charts, with levels as high as 1,000 parts per million. This can render someone unconscious very quickly. At first, someone made the connection between sick people and a package opened in the basement around 8:30 a.m. They felt that it could have contained poison. When they checked, bringing in a bomb squad and the FBI, it was found there was no poison in the package. It was just salad bowls. The source of the leak was a broken boiler pipe in the basement.

Sometimes the most innocuous situation can cause the greatest harm. Nobody might suspect that 32 people are sick from a broken boiler pipe in a public grocery store. Nobody might suspect that what’s making people sick is carbon monoxide poisoning, when it is. We need to raise awareness about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning, so people can better be able to recognize when this is the case. This can also be done by installing physical carbon monoxide detectors in buildings, even in businesses. Sometimes people might not think about carbon monoxide poisoning in a public place like a grocery store, even though they might have a detector at home. It is ultimately the responsibility of the store owner or whoever is responsible for maintaining the building to make sure there are carbon monoxide detectors to protect the building’s inhabitants or visitors.

In some states, this is actually the law that people need to have carbon monoxide detectors. The most common law I’ve seen is making sure that carbon monoxide detectors are installed in sleeping areas in residences or anywhere that provides lodging, such as hotels and bed and breakfasts. Also, sometimes they have laws in some places that require carbon monoxide detectors in commercial buildings. Sometimes they require them on boats, too. The problem with most of these laws is that they require carbon monoxide detectors only on new construction and newer buildings, leaving the people in older buildings missing a level of protection. Carbon monoxide poisoning does not discriminate against older and newer buildings and neither should the law. In fact, older buildings or motors might have a greater risk of emitting high, dangerous levels of carbon monoxide than newer buildings with electric stoves or newer boat motors with low carbon monoxide emissions.

In New York, carbon monoxide protection is required in commercial buildings where a carbon monoxide source is present or if there is an attached garage or vehicle. The law applies to all buildings no matter if it is new construction or an existing building.

Generator Carbon Monoxide Events Keep Happening

The list of generator carbon monoxide events keeps getting longer. When we started keeping track of these events on June 5, 2017, there were four incidents in the previous five weeks. Since then the list of generator carbon monoxide events now has 9 entries. That means five more generator carbon monoxide events in 15 days.

The latest involved the death of a 3-year old boy in San Antonio, Texas where the small structure he was living in with his family was overtaken by fumes from a generator that was outside the structure. Each one of these stories is sad, but this one rings a particularly note. Not only that it is a 3-year old victim, but that this family was obviously living in such poverty that normal electrical service was not an option for them. In fact, inability to get utility service is one of the leading causes of generator carbon monoxide events.

Generator carbon monoxide events

Inability to get electricity from a utility company is a major part of the problem leading to generator carbon monoxide events. In San Antonio, Texas poisoning, the makeshift home the victims were living in was without other power.

The epidemiology of generator carbon monoxide events is about one a week with the worst time being in the winter. But the second worst time is storm season and that is what we are in the middle of. Often before I am done writing about one of these tragedies, another shows up in the news.

Listing of Generator Carbon Monoxide Events

Here is our updated list of these events over the

I know I have missed one or two. They have been happening so fast this month that I am having a hard time keeping them straight. Some are so closed together I don’t get the chance to blog about them separately. There was a followup TV story to the Olathe, Kansas poisoning on todays news wire. It may be that the generator was run in the garage although yesterdays picture appeared to show differently. But the important takeaway from that followup was two things:

  • First, the reporter wanted to end the story on the upbeat note that say “they’re all feeling much better.” The story ends with the statement that the “family is fortunate to be alive and well.” We know, however, that just surviving doesn’t mean that all will be well. The kind of carbon monoxide poisoning involved in a generator carbon monoxide event is sudden and serious. Just surviving doesn’t mean that everyone will be well. There is a 40% chance of permanent brain damage in this case and a 24% chance of permanent heart damage.
  • Second, the reporter strikes the tone of everyone needs to learn about the dangers of running generators indoors. Yet, the reporter ends his story with referencing the dangers of carbon dioxide poisoning. Is there a better illustration as to how common the lack of knowledge is about carbon monoxide poisoning?

Attorney Gordon Johnson


Even outside, portable generator danger is beyond imagination.

Portable generator danger was greater than imagined in Olathe, Kansas where four were hospitalized Saturday June 17, 2017 with carbon monoxide poisoning. Since we started blogging on this topic, not a day goes by that someone doesn’t say to us that the solution to the portable generator mayhem is for people to simply take the generators outside. Each time we state our position that the generator manufacturers must be sued in these cases, someone blames it on the victims.

Based on photo evidence from the scene of the latest poisoning event over the weekend in suburban Kansas City, the generator that poisoned these four individuals was being run outside the dwelling. See http://www.kansascity.com/news/local/article156820669.html for the photo.

Portable generator danger extends to operation outside home.

The unpredictable nature of portable generator danger is shown by this graphic where only 29% of the fatalities occur inside the home. Like the 10% shown above, the generator appears to have been outside in the Olathe, Kansas poisoning. The above graph is from the Portable Generator Manufacturers 2016 Technical Summit, a summit which has yet to find a solution.

How can a generator be so dangerous that it can poison from outside a dwelling? The answer is 85,000 ppm. That is how much carbon monoxide poison a generator has in its exhaust, when operating properly. This is nearly 20 times the amount a carbon monoxide detector can read. Not a residential carbon monoxide detector, but the professional detectors used to measure the carbon monoxide in the exhaust of furnaces and other household gas burning appliances.

It is hard to explain to people who have not had a carbon monoxide detector near a portable generator to imagine how dangerous they are. Walk within five feet of a portable generator running outside, and levels will begin to climb. I recently saw a detector go off within five seconds.

How can these generators still be so dangerous? Because generators were not considered a significant contributor to air pollution at the time the EPA mandated cleaner cars in 1970. Thus, they have had little regulation.

Why Portable Generator Danger Continues?

Does the generator industry understand how dangerous their product is? Are they fully aware of the 751 deaths and 25,000 cases of medical treatment between 2004 and 2014 related to their product? I will let the Portable Generator Manufacturer’s Association answer that question. A timeline of the industry’s presumptive knowledge of this danger is in the PGMA’s 2016 Technical Summit. My comments are in parenthesis and italicized:

  • 2009 – Generator manufacturers join forces as PGMA to create and promote safety standards for portable generators and began work on safety standard. (Create and promote means lobbying.)
  • 2012 – Education Awareness Subcommittee Formed (Why three years to form an education awareness subcommittee?)
  • 2012 – Support adoption of CO monitor as part of building code
  • 2013 – Support NARUC CA-1 Resolution Recognizing the Importance of Educating Consumers on Portable Generator Carbon Monoxide Safety (All the focus is on the consumer not the industry.)
  • 2013 – Communications Subcommittee Formed
  • 2013 – Safety First Program Begins
  • 2013 – PGMA contracts consultant to study deaths related to portable generators to identify trends that could be used to formulate potential solution options. (CPSC has been providing this information for a decade at this point.)
  • 2014 – PGMA Public Relations Campaign Begins (PR not solutions.)
  • 2014 – PGMA actively participates and works collaboratively in the UL CO Task Group
  • June 2015 – PGMA G300 Safety and Performance of Portable Generators Standard obtained recognition as an ANSI standard.(Does this standard lower emissions? Not.)
  • October 2015 – PGMA Launches “Take it OutsideTM” Safety Awareness Campaign

The PGMA addressed everything at its technical summit that they could think of to point the finger at the consumer for misusing the generator. They talk about how consumer’s need to know how dangerous their machines are, not how to make them less dangerous. Unless you have actually tested one of these machines, you can’t fathom how dangerous they are.  Even professional engineers who work in this industry don’t perceive how dangerous these machines are until they strap on a carbon monoxide detector and go near a portable generator’s exhaust.

Even after PGMA began extensive testing of solutions in 2016 (seven years after being formed for this purpose) the PGMA is still arguing that such reduction would not save people from carbon monoxide poisoning. Reducing these emissions is feasible. The marine industry had reduced CO emissions by 99% by 2006. One PGMA member in fact has a reduced emission generator reading to mass produce. Yet the balance of the generator industry seems intent on making dangerous generators until they are forced to make generators safer.

One PGMA tactic is to argue that because their are more generators in use than the government estimated, that makes their machines safer than claimed.

Safer than claimed still means deaths averaged 75 per year with 4,000 poisoned annually according to Hampson’s 2015 study. http://www.jem-journal.com/article/S0736-4679(15)00242-5/fulltext Hampson said there:

Acute, severe CO poisoning from portable electric generators is common in the United States, likely affecting an estimated 4000 individuals annually, occurring predominantly in residential settings.

Time for change or more denials and delay? Justice says litigation is needed now.

Attorney Gordon Johnson