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Uncle Sam ups pressure on portable generator manufacturers over carbon monoxide

Earlier this year we reported on a “poker game” going on between portable generator manufacturers and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The Commission had upped the ante in the game that the two groups were playing. Back in February, with “safety of the citizenry” in mind, the CPSC put generator manufacturers on notice. CPSC said it was considering implementing mandatory rules to protect users from the hazards of carbon monoxide. For years, industry has been working under voluntary standards to reduce risks. Now Congress wants to get into the game.

How does the system work?

Here’s how the “voluntary system” works. Generator manufacturers set out to reduce the likelihood of deaths and injuries from CO poisoning. The voluntary plan would eliminate any chance of the CPSC making rules. Manufacturers went ahead and developed a voluntary industry standard. At the heart of the standard were changes to portable generators. These changes, by industry’s testing, reduce the number of deaths from CO associated with generators by 99%.

How does this work? Imagine building a CO detector into a portable generator. The detector constantly sniffs the surrounding air. If a danger level is reached, it shuts down the generator. A warning light then indicates what the problem is.

Some generator manufacturers comply—others not

Some manufacturers already have models with this safety equipment on store shelves. But not everyone is playing along. According to a story published by ProPublica, four generator companies haven’t joined the party and upgraded their units. Who? Champion Power Equipment, DuroMax Power Equipment, Firman Power Equipment, and Generac Power Systems. Instead of the CPSC poking at these firms, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform saw the carbon monoxide smoke signals and got involved.

generatorsThe committee’s lead representative, Carolyn B. Maloney (D. NY), earlier this week fired off letters to all four of the firms. She asked for records and information as to why these generator manufacturers haven’t kicked out equipment upgrades enhancing CO safety. She also asked for copies of letters or other messages regarding any deaths or injuries connected to their generator products.

“As families prepare for potential extreme weather during the 2022 hurricane season, they shouldn’t have to worry about whether the products they buy to keep themselves safe are dangerous and potentially life-threatening,” Maloney said in a statement. “Unfortunately, with tragedy after tragedy, we’ve seen that portable generators have become one of the deadliest consumer products on the market.”

Health risks

Roughly 70 people are killed each year by CO from portable generators. To many, this doesn’t seem like a significantly large number—unless one of those deaths is among your friends or family. While official statistics are easy to track down on deaths, injuries from CO poisoning are significantly larger in number.

As we mentioned last spring, those injured by CO poisoning may suffer long-term memory, language, and cognition problems. Behavior and mood problems aren’t uncommon. Some even suffer from symptoms that might be seen in Parkinson’s disease patients. Making it all the more disturbing, symptoms may not appear for days—even weeks—after the initial poisoning occurs. While CO may not kill “too many” people, it could make life a walking nightmare for hundreds, if not thousands.



Subpoena threat

With all that in mind and more, Representative Maloney “called” the recalcitrant manufacturers. In her letter to the CEOs of the four companies, she wrote. “The Committee is seeking to understand why your company has failed to adequately adopt industry-led standards, how your company plans to prevent putting your customers at risk in the future, and whether legislative reform is necessary to protect consumers.” Giving the four power-houses until July 12 to respond, she also asked for information on how much money their firms were saving by failing to tune up to the voluntary standards. She reminded them that if they fail to turn over the requested information, she could issue subpoenas.

Will this increasing pressure on industry get the “desired response”? Or will the CPSC end up mandating generator rules? Back in March, the generator manufacturers’ trade group didn’t think so. “We think, in the end, there will not be a mandatory standard because there is a voluntary standard, ANSI/PGMA G300,” wrote the group’s representative. That standard “effectively addresses the issue and there will be substantial compliance by the industry.” If industry “substantially complies” with their own voluntary standard, then CPSC has no footing to write new rules on generator safety.

Manufacturers’ responses

Apparently some in Congress don’t think that generator manufacturers have “substantially complied” with the voluntary standards. Two of the four alleged “non-complying” firms responded to ProPublica for a comment about the Congressional committee demand.

Champion’s CEO, Denis Trine, gave ProPublica a response that indicated its safety and product quality were priorities. Trine also said portable generators “never” kill users when they are “used correctly as depicted on the product, packaging and owners manual.” He also heralded the other ways the company’s generators could actually prove health-helpful. “Temporary, emergency power saves lives for people storing hundreds of dollars of Insulin in their refrigerators and people using breathing machines to sleep at night. The list goes on regarding the critical benefits of portable generators.”

For its part, Generac responded that the company was reviewing the letter and would make a response to the committee. As for Firman and DuroMax, the “lights were out,” in terms of a response to reporters at ProPublica.

We’ll update you on this story as information becomes available.

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ThreeGig
1 month ago

Please update your article. Duromax has models that either do CO alert or shutdown.

Your friend has shared a link to a Home Depot product they think you would be interested in seeing.

https://www.homedepot.com/p/DUROMAX-13000-10500-Watt-Dual-Fuel-Electric-Start-Gasoline-Propane-Portable-Home-Power-Back-Up-Generator-with-CO-Alert-Shutdown-XP13000HX/314186063

Joe
1 month ago

I have a friend that got a snowblower for Christmas. He started it in the house and it ended up eating his curtains before he could shut it off. Stupid does as stupid will do. We all had a good time with it at his expense.

Joe
1 month ago

The generator will be produced with CO detectors to sniff the air, good idea as long as the detector is placed in the house especially a bedroom. I doubt many people are dying of CO poisoning outside the house. If a remote detector was placed in the house then there would be many many stickers, placards and etc on the generator warning about the detector placement, people will still ignore it and many will still die. What this is coming to is the elimination of portable generators because people are not smart enough and need to be protected by the government.

Bob M
1 month ago

This is another issue of our government sticking their nose where it don’t belong. Just like taking menthol cigarettes off the market because most blacks smoke them and our government feels they can’t make a decision on whats best for their health. But our government won’t regulate business and restaurants use of salt and sugar which kills or disables more people because of high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. God gave everyone a brain to make their own decision.

Bill
1 month ago

One may think this is the Government, but one needs to remember it is the EPA being illegally powered and allowed to run rampant over Americans.

Josh
1 month ago
Reply to  Bill

You do realize that the epa is the government.

Jeff Craig
25 days ago
Reply to  Bill

You do realize NIXON and the GOP started and backed the EPA, giving them the power they have, correct? You may whine about ‘regulations’, but the rest of the world should have these same regs, we’d all be able to breathe clean air (until some idjit puts a hacked chip in their Ram and ‘rolls coal’ all over my Jeep).

Tom 2424
1 month ago

Well, I have a DuroMax that I bought several months ago, and it includes a “CO Alert” feature. Great generator BTW, it’s dual-fuel, inverter type, and 240V. The only one I could find with all 3 features. I run it strictly on propane and avoid all the gasoline-related storage and operation problems….

Richard
1 month ago

The educational and legal systems have spent decades telling people everything is someone else’s fault. This makes money for lawyers, at the expense of consumers.
Remove the labels and let Darwin do his work.

Scott
1 month ago
Reply to  Richard

here..hear. The lack of common sense of some people drives the manufactures to apply all of those warning labels on consumer products. Using ANY internal combustion engine in a indoor space is DANGEROUS (for the feeble minded readers). Darwin had it right, let nature sort things out

Tommy Molnar
1 month ago

I can see the EPA going after book and stick matches next.

Steven Peterson
1 month ago

Right on!!!! Here’s your sign!

Steven Peterson
1 month ago

“Roughly 70 people are killed each year by CO from portable generators.” How many warnings, PSA’s, placards and sales-people instructions are needed to protect us from ourselves. Not trying to be crude, but you cannot cure stupid. I am sorry for those who suffered a loss, but Come on Man!

Raj
1 month ago

Just like tobacco said it was safe and car manufacturers fighting seatbelts.

Steven Peterson
1 month ago
Reply to  Raj

Raj
Smoking is a choice – I don’t, and seat belts are needed because of stupid drivers
Nuf’ said

Ron T.
1 month ago

For whatever it’s worth, in my local Menards store this week I saw Generac generators on sale that touted their CO monitoring/shutdown system. So they are at least partially compliant with the voluntary standard.

Steven Peterson
1 month ago
Reply to  Ron T.

More regs and cost to protect dumb people!

Which agree or not, this is the type of regulations that caused the SCOTUS to limit the EPA’s power, over-reaching to protect id10ts.

Last edited 1 month ago by Steven Peterson
MevetS
1 month ago

This sounds like it might fall within the recent ruling by the Supreme Court .

The EPA needs legislation to be able to randomly impose Climate Activist actions.

West Virginia v. EPA

https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/21pdf/20-1530_n758.pdf

Perhaps we can anticipate a return to reason.

Tommy Molnar
1 month ago
Reply to  MevetS

Good luck with THAT!

Raj
1 month ago
Reply to  MevetS

Return to reason? Look at all the poor coal miners who were told mining was safe! So a Senator from your state could line his pockets at their expense

Steven Peterson
1 month ago
Reply to  Raj

Raj,

No one said some of these regulations were not needed, but some are over the top because of dumb people.

Forest
1 month ago
Reply to  MevetS

One of the best decisions ever. So glad that unelected bureaucrats can no longer regulate industries based on lobbyist and politics. Common sense would make a good start.

Tom
1 month ago

Every hurricane and every power loss situation, someone does something stupid like running a portable Genset inside their living space. This can and will kill.
How hard is it to disable the alarm system?

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