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Carbon Monoxide Poisonings Linked to Gasoline-Powered Generators


According to Daley, generators should always be operated outside the home, away from any place where air might enter the home, such as near windows, doors, or vents. If the generator is used in a garage, it should be a structure that is separate from the house and well ventilated. Simply opening a window or door is not enough protection against the threat of carbon monoxide. Daley tells WebMD that consumers who are uncertain about the safe use or proper location for their gas-powered generator should contact their state or local health department or local fire department.

Daley says that testing for carbon monoxide in the home is important for everyone -- but most especially for people using generators. Local fire departments are equipped to test homes for carbon monoxide, but inexpensive, readily available detectors are the best option. "I wouldn't rely on the carbon monoxide detector totally, but they are an additional safety mechanism in case you are getting a flow of carbon monoxide from the generator outside," Daley says. "One thing to remember when you're dealing with a power outage is that if [the generator] is not providing power to the electrical outlets and you have a plug-in carbon monoxide detector, it will not be working. For areas that are prone to power outages, it may be worthwhile to have a carbon monoxide detector that has a battery backup."

In addition to having the carbon monoxide detector, owners should read the manual so they are aware of what to do if the detector is activated; they should also read the owner's manual for the generator. "One thing we found in our study was that people who showed awareness of warnings associated with the generators appeared less likely to be poisoning victims," Daley says.

Vital Information:

  • Using a gasoline-powered generator, a kerosene heater, or a propane heater can put you at increased risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Generators should only be operated outside or in a well-ventilated structure that is not attached to the home.
  • A carbon monoxide detector is good option, and it should be equipped with a battery backup for use during power outages.
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