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Safety-minded take on generators is still dangerously misinformed

I was horrified to read of the tragic deaths of four Massachusetts residents, apparently from carbon monoxide from a portable gas generator running in a basement (“In Maine, a day for celebration turns to horror,” Page A1, July 19). As a commissioner at the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, I was troubled by a comment, in your report on this tragedy, from a neighbor who “operates his generator in his garage, in a well-ventilated area.”

This safety-minded but misinformed comment reflects how much more we need to do to make consumers aware of generators’ inherent dangers. A garage is never a safe place to run a generator, even with the door open.

Portable generators can produce 1,500 times as much carbon monoxide per hour as a car. Even in an open garage, fumes can easily infiltrate the house or turn the garage into a gas chamber.

The commission’s experts recommend keeping generators at least 20 feet away from any occupied structure.

We’re working with industry to make generators safer, but the strongest protection is an informed consumer, using the generator properly — outside.

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Joseph P. Mohorovic
Commissioner
US Consumer Product
Safety Commission
Bethesda, Md.