The National Consumers League supports Agency’s proposal to reduce CO hazards of portable generators

June 28, 2023

Media contact: National Consumers League – Katie Brown,, 202-823-8442

Washington, D.C. – The National Consumers League (NCL) appeared at a June 28 hearing at the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) hearing to submit comments on a proposed rule to reduce injury and death associated with acute Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning[1].

“NCL strongly supports the CPSC rulemaking to address these preventable deaths and poisonings. Consumers rely on portable generators when the power goes out – they often don’t know that carbon monoxide (CO) emissions can reach dangerous levels, far higher than even from a car,” said Sally Greenberg, CEO of the NCL. “We applaud the CPSC for vastly improving the safety requirements for portable generators.”

Reducing CO emissions means employing CO detectors linked to alarms and shut-off mechanisms.  Reliance on existing voluntary standards has proved insufficient and have not reduced the risk of injury.

1332 CO poisoning deaths were reported between 2004 and 2021.  The CPSC proposal is particularly urgent because extreme weather conditions are becoming more common with climate change.  Portable generator usage will only grow, and time is of the essence to make them far safer and reduce their CO emissions. Generators with safe designs are already available and on the market; the stronger safety standards should be required for all generators.

NCL supports the critical message that portable generators must never be operated inside.  However, warning messages on generators need proper placement. They are used during complex emergency settings, in the aftermath of hurricanes, tornados or snowstorms. As NCL’s comments note, related factors, such as electrical cord length, rain and wind, lot size, or theft concerns lead consumers to place the generators too close to the home or even inside the home, which is poses serious risk of CO poisoning.

NCL’s made the following recommendations:

  • Add audible alarms to visual alarms when CO levels are high and have triggered a shutoff of the portable generator.
  • Replace wording on the generators to tell consumers to locate them “far away” from homes with existing CDC, FEMA, and CPSC guidance to say that they must be located at least 20 feet from homes.
  • Provide consumers with steps for safe operation in wet conditions.
  • NCL also noted in its comments that portable generators featuring lower CO emissions are currently on the market. The rule is not prescriptive, and there are no intellectual property obstacles to wider adoption of the safety technologies.

Matt Gillen, NCL consultant and expert, submitted oral comments to the CPSC on behalf of NCL; [2] NCL also submitted additional written comments.

Mr. Gillen noted that: “Portable generators help consumers when the power goes out.  But they cause an average of 74 carbon monoxide fatalities each year.  The CPSC’s proposed regulation will eliminate these preventable deaths.  And with extreme weather events surging, there is a real urgency in adopting this proposed regulation.”  




About the National Consumers League (NCL)
The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization.  Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad.  For more information, visit