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DHMH Press Releases > Posts > Health Officials Urge Continued Vigilance with Portable Generators Poor Ventilation Poses Serious Health Threats


August 31
Health Officials Urge Continued Vigilance with Portable Generators Poor Ventilation Poses Serious Health Threats

 Department of Health & Mental Hygiene News Release 

Baltimore, MD (August 31, 2011) – Baltimore, MD (August 31, 2011) -- Governor Martin O’Malley and Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, Secretary of the MD Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH), are reminding Marylanders to use caution when using portable generators, heaters, and other combustion sources during post-hurricane recovery. The state has already had one confirmed death due to carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.

Due to the continuing power outages, many people are using portable generators to supply their homes with electricity. Although these can be useful, they can also be dangerous. One of these dangers is CO poisoning. Between August 28 through 30, hospital Emergency Departments treated 13 cases of possible CO exposure, as reported via Electronic Surveillance System for the Early Notification of Community-based Epidemics (ESSENCE).

“Especially given the power outages in the days following Hurricane Irene, we remind all Marylanders to place generators outside and away from open windows, carports, garages, and other enclosed spaces," said Governor O'Malley. “Carbon monoxide poisoning is preventable, and we urge everyone to use extra caution. Please check on your neighbors, family and friends.”

It is very important to check the generator location and operation, and to have a working carbon monoxide detector.

“We have been emphasizing this warning for several days now because there is danger when people use generators indoors or closer than 15 feet from open windows, air conditioners, or doors,” said Secretary Sharfstein. “Because carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless, it can kill without being detected.”

Carbon monoxide gas is made when fuels burn improperly or the exhaust is not vented outdoors. The symptoms of CO poisoning can be similar to the flu (but without a fever). The symptoms include:  

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness

Every year, hundreds of people die from portable generator-related CO poisoning. Most often these occur because people used a generator indoors. If you use a portable generator, you can prevent CO poisoning by following these important safety tips:  

  • Never use a generator in garages, basements, crawl spaces and other enclosed or partially-enclosed areas.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your generator.
  • Install battery-operated or plug-in CO alarms with battery backup in your home.
  • For maximum effectiveness during sleeping hours, CO alarms should be placed close to sleeping areas. Additional alarms on every level and in every bedroom of a home can provide extra protection.
  • If your CO alarm goes off or you begin to feel sick, dizzy or weak while using a generator immediately get outside and call 911.  

Additional information can be found at  under Carbon Monoxide Preparedness.



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