Video: Targeting carbon monoxide deaths

updated 1/4/2007 9:17:19 PM ET 2007-01-05T02:17:19

All new portable generators sold in the U.S. are being required by federal regulators to carry a label warning that they can be deadly.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission voted Thursday to require that the label read in part, “Using a generator indoors CAN KILL YOU IN MINUTES.”

Acting CPSC Chairwoman Nancy Nord said in a statement that along with the increase in demand for generators over recent years, the number of people sickened or killed by them has also climbed.

The CPSC said that at least 64 people died in 2005 from generator-related carbon monoxide poisoning. Many of those deaths occurred after hurricanes and other major storms had cut electrical power. At least 32 deaths occurred from last October through December.

The danger label will also warn consumers that the exhaust from a generator contains carbon monoxide, a poison that cannot be seen and has no odor, and that generators should never be used inside homes or garages, even if windows and doors are open.

The CPSC statement said that the carbon monoxide produced by just one generator is equal to that produced by hundreds of running cars.

The new label requirement for manufacturers of generators either made or imported into the U.S. will take effect 120 days after the regulation is officially published. The labels will be required both on the generators themselves and on their packaging.

In a separate action last month, the commission began a lengthy procedure known as a rulemaking to address additional safety hazards connected with generators.

Commissioner Thomas Moore expressed concern about “inconsistencies in generator operations which the label cannot cure,” including the fact that generators cannot be used in wet conditions — the “very circumstances,” he said, “in which they are most likely to be needed.”

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