CPSC Warns Earthquake Victims: Do Not Use Gasoline-Powered Generators Indoors Because of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

February 28, 2001
Release Number: 01095

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is warning residents hit by the earthquake in the Pacific Northwest not to use gasoline-powered generators indoors because of the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Deaths from CO poisoning have occurred when generators were used after electricity was knocked out during other disasters such as ice storms and floods.

CPSC Chairman Ann Brown said, "If people use gasoline-powered generators indoors, they could die from CO poisoning. Opening doors and windows or operating fans does not guarantee safety."

CO poisoning from the use of fuel-burning appliances kills more than 200 people each year and sends about 10,000 to hospital emergency rooms for treatment. Others die from CO produced while burning charcoal inside a home, garage, vehicle or tent.

CO is a colorless, odorless gas produced by burning any fuel. The initial symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to the flu, and include dizziness, fatigue, headache, nausea and irregular breathing. Exposure to high levels of CO can cause death.

"Gasoline-powered generators should be left outdoors at all times to prevent CO poisoning," Brown said. "And every home should have a CO alarm that meets the requirements of the most recent Underwriters Laboratories or International Approval Services standard."