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 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. 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


Generator carbon monoxide poisonings

Boats are just one place where carbon monoxide poisoning can occur. In the Georgia case, it was a houseboat powered by a generator that sickened two young girls.

Two young girls were poisoned by carbon monoxide in Cobb County, GA, rushed to the hospital after inhaling toxic fumes from a houseboat, according to WBSTV. The source of the poisoning was a generator powering the houseboat, possibly an older model. In 2005, marine generators were manufactured that reduced 99 percent of carbon monoxide emissions. This is just one incident of many cases we have seen of generator carbon monoxide poisonings. From the Georgia incident, the parents were traumatized by experiencing such a close call.

From the children’s mother:

“Emalynne was just laying there. I was holding her. Her eyes were rolling back,” Britni Thomas said. “It’s very hard to describe holding your lifeless child in your arms.”

The doctor in the case said that they may use hyperbaric oxygen therapy, which is the most effective treatment for severe carbon monoxide poisoning. It has been demonstrated that hyperbaric oxygen therapy reduces the chance of cognitive sequelae significantly. The two girls were just having fun on Memorial Day weekend on their grandma’s houseboat, and this call was too close for comfort.

From the children’s father:

“You never want to see your kids with oxygen being given to them, stuck with a lot of needles and IVs,” Marcus Thomas said.

As we have seen with other carbon monoxide poisonings on boats, the back of the boat is the most dangerous part where people can be overcome by fumes. This case is eerily similar to the case of Raven Little-White, who died from a boat carbon monoxide poisoning. The back of the boat, where she was poisoned, is called the “kill zone.” Most people think it is dangerous because of the propeller. In fact, the fumes are dangerous too. It’s estimated that as many as 250 people die each year from drowning due to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Another carbon monoxide poisoning that is called to mind is one earlier this month in the Morgan Park area of Chicago. In this case, as with Raven Little-White, someone died. One woman died, and two other people were injured and taken to hospitals. If they had not been rescued, the fumes were strong enough to have killed them overnight. The source of the fumes was a gas generator being operated indoors. It’s such a shame when we hear about people dying of carbon monoxide poisoning, because it is an entirely preventable tragedy.

The parents of the two girls in Georgia said they are taking extra safety precautions now, staying away from the back of the boat from now on. The Chicago Fire Department issued a reminder on Twitter after the Morgan Park poisoning that nobody should ever operate a gas generator indoors. Hopefully the cases we have mentioned and others will help raise awareness about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning and tips to prevent it. Gas generators operated indoors can become dangerous in a matter of minutes. It is time that the generator manufacturers began producing low carbon monoxide emission generators, because, as we have stated in our previous blog, this kind of equipment is feasible. Marine generators have gotten there years ago, so it is time for the rest of the industry to adapt to these consumer needs. Enough is enough with these generator carbon monoxide poisonings.

Low Carbon Monoxide Generators are being made now

In testimony before the U.S. ‘Consumer Products Safety Commission, the head of one of the United States leading portable generator manufacturers said that low carbon monoxide generators are not only necessary, but feasible. On March 8, 2017, Lee Sowell with TTi testified to the CPSC that the agencies initiative was important, necessary and could be done affordably. He also testified that TTi was currently manufacturing generators that complied with the CPSC proposed standard.


Low carbon monoxide generators are feasible according to the head of a major generator manufacturer, TTi. One wonders why if the marine generators got there in 2004/2005, the rest of the portable generators industry is still making excuses.

Among the highlights of Sowell’s testimony were his whole hearted support of the CPSC Proposed Rule and announcing that TTi was prepared to launch multiple low carbon monoxide generators in 2017. One wonders why if TTi can be making these generators now, why the rest of the industry is fighting the clear safety advantages of low carbon monoxide generators. Said Sowell: “I would like to point out that at the PGMA Technical summit in March 2016, we were the only company that publicly presented the results of our reduced CO emission development efforts.” The rest of PGMA has been denying the value of the CPSC’s proposed rule and making excuses why low carbon monoxide generators can’t be done after 15 years of the CPSC pushing this issue.

Mr. Sowell’s prepared remarks on low carbon monoxide generators are posted below in full.

Oral Testimony of Mr. Lee Sowell:

President, Outdoor Products Division, Techtronic Industries Power Equipment.

Before the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Portable Generator NPR March 08, 2017

Good morning. My name is Lee Sowell and I’m the President of the Outdoor Products Division for Techtronic Industries Power Equipment, known as TTi. As a major manufacturer of outdoor power equipment including portable generators, TTi sells product under the Ryobi, Blackmax and Powerstroke brands to major retailers like The Home Depot and others. Though industry data is limited for determining US generator market share, I estimate that we are the 41 h largest supplier of portable generators in the industry. We have a manufacturing facility in Anderson, South Carolina where we produce a portion of our generators. We also have overseas manufacturing capabilities.

I want to thank the Commission and CPSC staff for their leadership in this important topic. We share the CPSC’s goal of ensuring the safety of all consumer products sold to U.S. consumers. I’d also like to point out that we are one of the founding members of the PGMA and we are active on the Board of Directors and also Chair the PGMA Technical Committee.

TTi is here today to publicly support the Portable Generator NPR because it promotes a technical standard that will address the CO hazard associated with portable generator in enclosed, partially enclosed mis-use scenarios and as well as outdoor use scenarios. We offer our comments from the perspective of a finished goods manufacturer of portable generators, who has a track record of consistently demonstrating that product safety is of the utmost importance to our company. Today, I will highlight our support with the proposed rule; and how TTi has spent significant time and resources doing the R&D and testing of low CO emissions to prove the technical feasibility of the technology.

TTi wholeheartedly supports the CPSC’s mission of product safety and the proposed rule to limit the CO emissions rate of portable generators at the source. This is, in our opinion, the most sure way to directly reduce the chances of injuries and fatalities as a result of the mis-use of portable generators. To illustrate my point let me refer you to an example case that was included in a recently submitted comment to the Portable Generator NPR site. Ed & Cristine Watson, from Clarksville TN , lost a daughter, a husband and three friends due to carbon monoxide poisoning after operating their generator outside of their camper. Like most consumers, the Watsons, despite warning labels provided, may not have realized how dangerous generator exhaust can be resulting in mis-use. From the Watson’s perspective they were operating the generator correctly -it was not inside the camper. Rather, it was intentionally placed outside. Unfortunately, placing the generator outside was not enough to avoid a tragic accident. This scenario and many others like it will most likely not be prevented by shut off technology alone. Rather, the most effective way to mitigate the potential for CO related injury is to first address the hazard at its source -by lowering the amount of CO produced -and then focusing on shut off technology.

The work that the CPSC did in conjunction with the University of Alabama to make a working prototype demonstration provided us a solid foundation of technical understanding and a very helpful framework of reference points that helped guide our development teams to achieve CO emission results that were otherwise thought to be unachievable for portable generators. My teams have been able to demonstrate low CO emissions on many different engines and engine sizes, as well as successful demonstrations using multiple fuel types. With each passing phase of development, my teams are making further discoveries, improvements and helping to push the base on knowledge and understanding of what the technology is capable of achieving, and how it fits perfectly as a technical solution to solve the CO hazard associated with portable generators.

I would like to point out that at the PGMA Technical summit in March 2016, we were the only company that publicly presented the results of our reduced CO emission development efforts. Since then, we have continued our development and have been able to incorporate a shut-off technology that does not rely on chemical sensing devices and has the potential to demonstrate higher reliability. The optimal solution for limiting the CO hazard would be prevention via reduced CO emissions and detection via a shut-off feature. We have been working with multiple partners that combined have significant technical experience to enable us to replicate the University of Alabama results and make it commercially viable reduced CO emissions technical solution. The technology to reliably control CO emissions on small engines is readily available on the market today from multiple sources. Anyone who is serious about addressing this hazard can do so today.

We have plans to launch multiple generators during the 2017 calendar year using our own reduced CO emissions engines, and also using other third party engines that are readily available on the market. Kohler announced in October 2016 that they have developed an engine for use on portable generators which has a reduced CO emissions rate and we are proud to partner with them to resolve this CO hazard and improve the health and safety of US consumers. We ~e also partnering with another engine manufacturer from Japan and we welcome the opportunity to work with others. TTi remains strongly committed to working with industry to address the hazards associated with the use of portable generators. We do appreciate the opportunity to provide our view on the proposed rule. Thank you. I am happy to answer any questions you may have.



Portable Generator Comments on Facebook

Since we started posting on this issue this week, there have been a number of people on Facebook who have disagreed with our position that the generator manufacturers need to be held accountable for ignoring this foreseeable misuse of their product.

For our story on the Chicago poisoning click here.

For our story on the Kingsport Tennessee poisoning, click here.

Pasted below are some of those comments and our responses to them.

Portable Generator Comments:

Would you leave your gas lawn mower or gas weed eater running in your basement or anywhere inside your home?
The Brain Injury Law Group:
You might work on either in your garage with the door open. But lawn products are being designed to run outside. A gas generator is not weatherized to be run outside and it is a risk of being stolen. It is designed to be left unattended, so where is it you are supposed to use it?

Portable Generator Comments:

Family has many power outages and use a generator as backup but is used on the outside of the home. Busses have generators but all the fumes are with the mufflers going completely to the outside of the bus so the fumes don’t cause carbon monoxide poisoning. Some have built sheds to store their backup power generators away from the home to lock them up and keep them safe and to provide safe and proper use of the equipment and proper adequate ventilation.
So chicago brain injury you’re suggesting that a gas powered generator is meant to be used indoors?? Thats ridiculous! They have gas engines…same as a lawnmower. Theyre definitely not meant for use inside. Theyre made to run tools…or for camping…small power requirements. Not to run a breaker panel
I went to school with the Kingsport victim. He was a great guy growing up. I remember him always sticking up for the underdog, calming bullies, and sharing his lunch and snacks with friends in need. God rest his soul.
Sad. This happened on my street.
The Brain Injury Law Group:

We are sorry for your communities loss. But justice should be sought to stop these deaths and help provided for the survivors. To give a relative sense of how much the generator manufacturers knew about the relative magnitude of this “foreseeable misuse” of their product, see this chart comparing generator deaths to other well known product liability crisis.

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Portable generator comments include these who think that manufacturers should not be sued because of operator error.

Portable Generator Comments:

I hate to hear this but why did they have it the basement and if you plan on doing something like this you need to make some type of hose system like you see at the dealership garages that will slide over the exhaust pipe and route it outside
I swear ppl will sue over any damn thing anymore. Im not trying to sugar coat ehat happened. It sux what happened to this guy…but sumtimes you just have to use your head. A butcher knife made for cutting meat can be used to stab and kill somebody, or yourself. But when that happens should ths knife manufacturer be held accountable??? I guess your against guns too…and think guns kill ppl…not ppl killing ppl WITH guns huh
The Brain Injury Law Group:
From the CPSC:
Additionally, some portable generator manufacturers recommended (and continue to recommend) using extension cords that are preferably less than 15 feet long, to prevent voltage drop and possible overheating wires. Other generator manufacturers also recommended (and continue to recommend) that portable generators be placed under cover when it is wet outside because, although these products are intended for outdoor use only, they are not weatherized for safe use in wet conditions posing a risk of shock or electrocution. Staff believes these manufacturer recommendations conflict with the need to avoid the CO poisoning hazard because the recommendations may encourage generator operation in close proximity to a residence or in an enclosed or semi-enclosed environment. Proper placement of the unit is especially significant because demand for portable generators to power home appliances increases dramatically during storms with wet or icy conditions that cause power outages.

Portable Generator Comments:

Really blame the manufacturer why not the moron running the generator inside.
Portable Generator Comments:
They care about a couple of carbon monoxide deaths cause money is involved but the shootings in chicago go unattended shows where priorities are
Outdoor use only duh!!
Not one word in the article to caution running the gas powered generators OUTSIDE ONLY. Pretty damned irresponsible for a position paper on safety.
Only use outside
The Brain Injury Law Group:
Yes of course, only use outside. But the only prevention angle that hasn’t been tried is for the generator manufacturers to make these internal combustion engines as safe as cars and the generators on boats.
Portable Generator Comments:
Sue the gas co for making fuel sue the parents for raising
Stupid sue Egypt
Sure cars are safe to go 80 or maybe even 90. But using an internal combustion engine indoors is like driving 100MPH OR FASTER.
TWO POINTS: first your article should point out that generators are to be place outdoors.
Second, that there are no combustion engines made to run indoors.
There are warning labels on coffee cups for a reason! There are also an abundance of safety warnings included with the generator that clearly tell the user not to use it indoors and to place it a certain distance away. I hope that your firm is trying to get a new warning label on the box that reads “WARNING! NOT TO BE USED BY MORONS, STUPID PEOPLE, OR THOSE SELECTED BY DARWIN!”.
I am certain that technology does not exist to allow the indoor operation of gasoline engines.
And listen, your answer is not just about how many are injured.
I am a Speech Language Pathologist with many years working in the rehab setting where most of my patients are brain injured.
Sympathy does not make engines run clean.
The Brain Injury Law Group:
The technology exists to make these products safe enough that they give people warning before they succumb to the fumes. TTI is already making these generators. See
Portable Generator Comment:
You can only make so many excuses for people’s stupidity… I know it pays your bills, but don’t expect the rest of us to go along with this ridiculous premise. What are you going to do? Designate a company representative to come over every time they use it?
The Brain Injury Law Group:
The generator manufacturers can only blame their bad product on misuse for so long. Children are dying. Do you want to blame them, too?
Portable Generator Comments:
When u buy a port. generator the instructions say outside use only!
This has got to be one of the most ridiculous articles I’ve ever read. So I’m assuming that we need to tell people not to run their cars in the garage with the doors closed for hours? Maybe we should tell everyone not to bring your grill in the house and cook for 100 people on it? Seriously, why are we protecting the stupid? If you are not smart enough to realize you DO NOT run an internal combustion engine indoors……….well then I guess that’s just survival of the fittest.
Brain Injury Law Group:
Modern cars aren’t nearly as deadly as a portable generator.
Portable Generator Comments:

And I’m just gonna leave this right here ……….

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Reader points out in Portable Generator Comments that there are warnings on generators not to use indoors. Such warnings are only in English.

Brain Injury Law Group:
500 people have died since this warning label was put on the generators. 
Well this is exactly why I am bothering to post here.
You just shifted your initial position opposing the use of gas powered generators because of injury and death while using generators indoors to the use of generators outside of buildings.
This leads to suspicion of your unspoken motive.
They make heavy gauge extension cables to minimize voltage drop…
The Brain Injury Law Group: You sound like a knowledgable consumer. The generator manufacturers know that they will be selling these machines to people who are not, who are making emergency decisions because of loss of power. The consumer’s motivation is to get the power restored in an emergency. Most people don’t know about CO.
The Brain Injury Law Group: Many of those die from generators put the generators in open garages, outside near an open window, with fans and other makeshift exhaust mechanisms. None of this is new. The generator manufacturers have been making excuses not to to what marine generator manufacturers did in 2005/2006 and what auto manufacturers did in the 1970s’ Use catalytic converters and Electronic Fuel Injection to cut down the number of deaths.
The extension cord problem is because people go to Walmart and buy the cheapest cord they can find. No, you should be buying heavy duty cords to use with generators.
2. Under cover does not mean inside your house. 
Please tell me what deaths have been cut down by using catalytic converters and fuel injection?
The Brain Injury Law Group:
Automotive related carbon monoxide deaths are down 80% since catalytic converters and EFI has been put on cars. Even car related suicides are down by a similar percentage.
So what are you saying? Ban generators?
The Brain Injury Law Group:
What we are saying is that emissions should be limited like they have been in cars for two generations and that there should also be an automatic shut down mechanism so that if carbon monoxide exceeds 100 ppm, that the generators will shut off.
I think it’s more financially feasible to let natural selection take its course. That would add a lot to the cost of a generator. For the markup that would add to them, people could just pay the power company to turn their power back on. Like I said, I know these idiots are your bread and butter, but… ?
Brain Injury Law Group:
The cost of the shut down system is nominal. The catalytic converter adds perhaps 10-20% to the cost. This is a reasonable expenditure considering that these products kill at such a predictable rate. We require seat belts, airbags and safety devices all through our society. What is it about portable electric generators that should make them exempt to the safety principles that apply to products?

Attorney Gordon Johnson


Deadly Generator Fumes Attack Chicago Again.

Two more near fatalities from deadly generator fumes in Chicago. No, this is not Monday’s story all over again. This is a story that happened on Thursday June 8, 2017. According to the Chicago Sun Times, a man and his teenage son where saved from deadly levels of carbon monoxide in their home in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood because the man had called 911. Fortunately, the onset of the carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms was slow enough that there was time between the warning signs and the 911 response. Often times, individuals will drop where they are because of the deadly levels. See

Last Saturday one was killed and two others poisoned in Chicago’s Morgan Park neighborhood. We blogged about it here:

According to the Sun Times, this was a case where the generator was being operated in the basement because the electricity had been turned off by the power company. We have been advocating hard against the deadly nature of portable electric generators all year, including being asked to testify in front of the U.S. CPSC in March of 2017. A portion of my testimony is here.

According to the CPSC, a near majority of these cases of deadly generator fumes happen in one of two situations: power outages because of storms and people having their power turned off. While their have been no reports as to the reason for last Saturday’s incident in Morgan Park, Thursday’s incident clearly fits into the power turned off category.

Deadly Generator Fumes

According the CPSC, a near majority of deadly generator fumes cases happen because of two causes: storms and having electricity turned off. In Thursday’s Chicago case, the power was turned off.


From the CPSC notice of Proposed Rule, published in 2016, of the 562 fatal incidents of deadly generator fumes causing fatalities between 2004 and 2014: “Twenty-one percent (116 incidents) were associated with the use of generators after a power shutoff by the utility company for nonpayment of a bill, a bill dispute, or other reason.” See page 222: That number is likely understated, however, because 19% of the causes was unknown.

The primary culprit in these cases is the manufacturers of the generators. Those manufacturers have reduced the emissions from their generators like car manufacturers have, nor have the put on automatic shut off mechanisms which would shut down the generator when made indoors. The generator industry has acknowledged the risk of death from this foreseeable misuse throughout the CPSC’s rule making process, but has made no changes. The CPSC started this rule making process in 2002, 15 years ago. 1,000 deaths later, the generator industry just keeps making these generators.

Generators can be made safe. One of the members of the Portable Generators Manufacturers Association, (PGMA) is already making such a generator, Techtronic Industries Power Equipment  of Anderson, S.C. If TTI can make these, so can the balance of the manufacturers of portable electric generators. Instead, they choose to obfuscate, delay and talk about other methods of saving lives. The PGMA position is that a shut down should be put on all generators, yet only TTI is manufacturing a generator that will save lives. If the Federal Government can force a change, then it is time for litigation to play its role in making our world safer. The PGMA members and the retailers who sell and rent these generators must stop ignoring the undeniable facts that people will run portable electric generators inside. While such is a huge mistake, it is a foreseeable misuse that must be engineered to avoid. 

Justice demands these generators be made more safe. Our prayers are with all of these victims of bad products and hope that those in Englewood get the best medical treatment and diagnosis for the damage the carbon monoxide poisoning left behind. We represent dozens of Illinois survivors of carbon monoxide poisoning and the pattern is familiar. Brain damage, mood and behavioral changes as well cognitive challenges await nearly half those who survive. For more on our carbon monoxide cases in Illinois, click here. 

Attorney Gordon Johnson


Post note: Two little girls were poisoned by an electric generator on a houseboat in Georgia either today or yesterday. Of significant note is that manufacturers of marine generators have made their current models much safer, with Kohler generators having reduced CO emissions by 99%, in 2005. We suspect that this Georgia case may involve an older boat or generator than that. We will keep our eye out for more news on this case.







Detectors make a difference

Carbon monoxide detectors make a difference. Here are some cases where they saved lives. (Flickr / Creative Commons / Judy van der Velden)

By Jennifer Ball

In a near tragedy in Greenburgh, NY, part of Westchester County, detectors saved hundreds of children. In carbon monoxide poisonings, detectors make a difference. In the daycare, on Friday, May 26, hundreds of children were sent out into the rainy weather that morning after the carbon monoxide detectors went off in the building. When the detectors went off, they instituted their emergency plan and got the kids to the community center nearby. Investigators determined that the carbon monoxide levels were higher in the kitchen. The building was ventilated, and the source of the carbon monoxide was isolated. The children were allowed back into the building when levels returned to normal. As the article from News 12 Westchester stated, detectors made all the difference.

We represent students at a school carbon monoxide poisoning in Girard, IL, North Mac Middle School. The warning of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning were the kids, staff, and teachers getting sick. They did not have carbon monoxide detectors to tell them of the dangers sooner. Their bodies were the alarms. Carbon monoxide detectors would have signalled the exact danger and would have caused an earlier evacuation. Carbon monoxide detectors must also be stored in areas where people are, not just in the boiler room, where someone might not hear it right away when they go off.

Another example of a school carbon monoxide poisoning was also in Illinois. Horace Mann Middle School in Chicago, IL was evacuated after carbon monoxide detectors went off, according to DNA Info. The newly installed detectors warned them of the dangers and caused an earlier evacuation than the Girard school carbon monoxide poisoning, for example. However, according to the article, they still waited a couple of hours before contacting the fire department. It is important to act quickly in carbon monoxide poisoning situations. Carbon monoxide can overtake people fairly quickly.

Another example of carbon monoxide detectors making the difference is in the case of the Austin police officers. An Austin police officer was sickened by his very own cruiser. Exhaust was seeping into the cabin of the Ford Explorers, sickening police officers. In response, the department installed a carbon monoxide alert system. When the officer was notified of the carbon monoxide gas leaking into the cabin, he was able to notify the city’s fleet services department. This was a better situation compared to the police officer who crashed his car into a tree due to carbon monoxide poisoning in his Ford Explorer in Newport Beach, CA. The Austin police officer that prompted the installation of detectors had felt sick and ended up hitting a curb. For more information on those situations, see this link:

A carbon monoxide detector warned a family in Hobart, IN to a carbon monoxide poisoning in their residence. The detector actually saved a baby’s life. Babies are more vulnerable to carbon monoxide because their bodies are smaller. The baby in the apartment building was just three months old.

The beeping of a carbon monoxide detector and a sick resident alerted the building manager to the high levels of carbon monoxide in a Boulder, CO building. He called the fire department, who rescued several residents and a few pets. The building was evacuated, and the fire department investigated the source of the carbon monoxide.

These are some of the cases where carbon monoxide detectors save lives. Carbon monoxide detectors make a difference. They can be a valuable tool for survival in any place you spend time, such as hotels, schools, boats, homes, and businesses. These situations remind us to have working carbon monoxide detectors in our homes and businesses, and to check and change the batteries every six months.

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 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:


Portable electric generator kills one and three others poisoned in Kingsport, Tennessee.

Carbon monoxide from another portable electric generator kills again. This time the tragedy was in Kingsport, Tennessee where Denver Strickler was killed. Three other people from his household were hospitalized after carbon monoxide fumes from a portable electric generator invaded their household. This repetitive tragedy happened on May 12, 2017, only a 30 miles down the road from the place where two others died in a similar incident two weeks prior. See Both fatal portable electric generator incidents occurred in an area of Tennessee east of Knoxville, south of the Virginia state line.

Portable Electric Generators kill three people in two separate incidents in north east Tennessee in two weeks. The site of the two fatal incidents are only 30 miles apart.

Mr. Strickler was 45. According to his obituary he was survived by three children and a grandmother. See Three other residents of the Strickler home were hospitalized at Holston Valley Hospital. While the police report states that the other residents were taken to the hospital for observation, they are also likely to have significant problems from the carbon monoxide poisoning.  The ambient air levels that it would take to kill someone from carbon monoxide are likely to leave survivors of the same incident with serious long term health consequences. For more on the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, click here:

From the Kingsport Police Report:

Upon our arrival, we spoke to KFD personnel. They advised that the residents were running a gasoline powered generator in the basement of the home. The generator was the house’s sole means of electricity. Someone sat the generator next to a vent in the basement, and they had a small fan near it to blow the exhaust out of the vent. However, the fumes failed to exit, and made the occupants sick.

Before you blame the victims, understand that this is likely single most foreseeable deadly misuse of a product in our marketplace. And the portable electric generator manufacturers and their trade association knows this.  The time has come for these portable electric generator deaths to stop. The U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) has been trying to cajole and recently force the portable generator manufacturers to stop this mayhem. To date, the CPSC has been unsuccessful and the death machines are still being manufactured. In the fall of 2016, the CPSC issued a Proposed Rule to require these manufacturers to make their generators safe, but all but one of the major manufacturers has been denying, delaying and disputing the need for greater safety.

Under product liability law, both on negligence and strict liability grounds, the manufacturers and retailers who sell these portable electric generators need to be held accountable. One of the elements to a successful products liability claim is the importance of showing to the jury that the manufacturers were aware of “other similar incidents.” This element is so important that such prior tragedies are abbreviated as OSI’s. Are there OSI’s for portable generator carbon monoxide deaths? Thousands of them. In 2016, the CPSC published the results of ten years of surveillance on these generators. They found that the there were more than 750 deaths and 25,000 hospitalizations from OSI’s with portable electric generators in the ten years before they published the proposed rule.

I was asked by the CPSC to speak at their public hearing on this proposed rule in February.

My testimony is above and can be found in full at our youtube channel.  What I said there applies in the Kingsport case, the Carter County case, the carbon monoxide poisoning related deaths and injuries that occur over this summer weekend, like they do almost every week, every year.

And as I finish this blog, I learn about two more portable electric generator deaths in Minnesota. SMH.

In this video, when I said “there is a lot of talk here that now we are going to do this and now we are going to do that”, I was talking about the portable electric generator manufacturers. They have a trade association called the PGMA, for Portable Generators Manufacturer’s Association with one of its primary purposes seems to be to lobby against the CPSC’s proposed rule.  Until the generator manufacturers stop making these death machines, this story will get retold almost every week. We will keep telling those stories and we are ready to do our part to stop this carnage by suing the manufacturers. Something must be done now.

Come back and read us again. We will continue to lay forth the facts that about how the portable electric generator manufacturers keep downplaying these deaths and how the retailers of these death machines, don’t seem to want to know how dangerous the product they sell is. Portable electric generators will continue to kill until injured parties and/or those who survive force them to stop. Force them to stop in a court of law.

Attorney Gordon Johnson