Monday, January 08, 2007


Federal regulators, stepping up oversight of an increasingly popular and potentially dangerous consumer product, ordered manufacturers to affix an explicit "danger" label to portable generators in an effort to stem an upsurge of deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning.

The new label, unanimously adopted as a mandatory rule by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, bears a stark message: "Danger. Using a generator indoors CAN KILL YOU IN MINUTES." It goes beyond the warnings attached to bags of charcoal, which also emit carbon monoxide, and products containing small parts, which pose choking hazards.

The agency is also considering other ways to reduce carbon monoxide exposure, such as capping emissions or requiring automatic shutoff devices. The CPSC already encourages consumers to have carbon-monoxide detectors in their homes.

The goal is to discourage consumers from using generators indoors or in partial enclosures, which frequently happens during storm-caused power outages. The CPSC says one gas-powered generator can release as much carbon monoxide as 1,000 cars. The agency has reports of at least 64 deaths related to indoor generator use in 2005, and 32 deaths over the last three months of 2006.

Deaths related to indoor generator use account for roughly half of deaths associated with carbon-monoxide poisoning each year, excluding cars. Other causes include using stoves or grills to heat homes when electrical power is knocked out.

-- January 08, 2007

By Christopher Conkey
The Wall Street Journal Online


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