Carbon Monoxide

When portable generators are used incorrectly, carbon monoxide can seep into your house and kill.

13,862 exposures

Number of people exposed to carbon monoxide in 2011

It’s important to know that the danger isn’t over once the storm blows through. Carbon monoxide poisoning is the most common poison-related cause of hospitalization and death in the wake of hurricanes.

It is called a “silent killer” because there are no odors and few symptoms that signal a problem. When people use generators improperly – too close to homes, in garages or outside bedroom windows – carbon monoxide can seep in and sicken or even kill.

The poison experts at your local poison center have some important tips for using portable generators safely:

  • Carefully follow the manufacturer’s safety instructions for portable generators.
  • Never use portable generators indoors, in garages or near open windows.
  • Do not siphon gasoline by mouth to fill a generator with fuel.
  • Use battery-operated (or battery-backup) carbon monoxide alarms. Be sure to test the batteries.
  • If you experience sleepiness, dizziness, headaches, confusion, or weakness or if your carbon monoxide alarm goes off, immediately seek fresh air and call your poison center at 1-800-222-1222.

If you have more questions about carbon monoxide, call your poison center at 1-800-222-1222.

Click here to read an article from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Nov. 9, 2012, issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report concerning carbon monoxide exposures reported to poison centers after Hurricane Sandy. 

PLEASE NOTE: The term "exposure" means someone has had contact with the substance in some way; for example, ingested, inhaled, absorbed by the skin or eyes, etc. Not all exposures are poisonings or overdoses.

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Poison centers offer free, private, confidential medical advice 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can reach your local poison center by calling 1-800-222-1222.

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