Bayamon, Puerto Rico, November 14th, 2022 — Many businesses, institutions and residential property owners in hurricane prone areas, such as Puerto Rico, have come to rely on portable generators for access to electricity following hurricane or tropical storm damage. Portable back-up generators powered by fossil fuels can help to keep critical appliances on, or to power a worksite, but they can also expose people to carbon monoxide (CO) if not properly used.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), about 85 people die in the United States each year from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by gasoline-powered portable generators. CPSC reports that most generator-related deaths (81%) occur in residential locations and the top three reasons for using a generator among the reported fatal incidents were weather-related power outages, power shut-offs, and attempts to provide power to temporary locations, such as cabins, campers and trailers.
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To help prevent carbon monoxide poisonings, CPSC provides the following advice for using a generator safely due to loss of power.
· Never operate a portable generator inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace, shed or on a porch. Opening doors or windows will not provide enough ventilation to prevent the buildup of lethal levels of CO.
· Operate portable generators outside only, at least 20 feet away from the house, and direct the generator’s exhaust away from the home and any other buildings that someone could enter, while keeping windows and other openings closed in the exhaust path of the generator.
· Check that portable generators have had proper maintenance, and read and follow the labels, instructions and warnings on the generator and in the owner’s manual.
· Look for portable generators that shut off automatically when high levels of CO are present. Some models with CO shut-off also have reduced emissions.
“Carbon monoxide is an odorless and colorless gas that is extremely poisonous, potentially causing death in minutes if one is exposed to high enough concentrations in the air they breathe,” said Harry Pena, President of Zimmetry Environmental. “Anyone can be at risk of CO poisoning, but certain groups, such as unborn babies, infants and people with chronic heart disease, anemia or respiratory problems, are often more susceptible to its effects. Fortunately, carbon monoxide poisoning is entirely preventable and the industrial hygiene and indoor environmental quality professionals at Zimmetry Environmental offer air testing and consulting services to identify and mitigate any potential exposure risks from portable generators and other combustion devices.”
Zimmetry also recently sponsored an educational video about portable generators and carbon monoxide hazards that can be seen at: https://youtu.be/Ju5x-S7828o
About Zimmetry Environmental
Since 2002, Zimmetry Environmental has been providing environmental consulting services to building owners and managers, architects, engineers, EHS professionals and Fortune 500 companies. The company is based in Puerto Rico and provides services across the Caribbean and Central America. The professionals at Zimmetry offer environmental compliance, indoor air quality, asbestos, lead-based paint, Phase I ESAs and general environmental consulting services.