carbon monoxide

US Plans New Safety Rules to Combat Carbon Monoxide Poisoning From Portable Generators

The announcement comes two months after an investigation detailed the deadly cost of the government’s failure to regulate portable generators

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This article was published in partnership with ProPublica, a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power, and The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan local newsroom that informs and engages with Texans. Sign up to receive ProPublica’s biggest stories as soon as they’re published, and sign up for The Brief Weekly to get up to speed on essential coverage of Texas issues.

The U.S. agency responsible for protecting consumers announced this week that it intends to recommend new mandatory rules to make portable generators safer, saying manufacturers have not voluntarily done enough to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning deaths caused by their products.

The announcement, part of a 104-page staff report by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, is a key step toward regulating gas-powered generators, which can emit as much carbon monoxide as 450 cars and which kill an average of 80 people in the U.S. each year.

The commission’s move comes more than two decades after U.S. regulators identified the deadly risks posed by portable generators and two months after an NBC News, ProPublica and Texas Tribune investigation found that federal efforts to make portable generators safer have been stymied by a statutory process that empowers manufacturers to regulate themselves, resulting in limited safety upgrades and continued deaths.

Portable generators, which are often used to power life-saving medical equipment, air conditioners, furnaces and refrigerators after major storms, emit enough carbon monoxide to kill within minutes when operated in enclosed spaces or too close to exterior openings. Carbon monoxide deaths caused by generators occur after nearly every major power outage, including 10 fatalities in Texas tied to generators during last year’s winter storm and power grid failure.

The new push for mandatory rules has been years in the making.

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