Poison Prevention

Generator and Carbon Monoxide Safety

The powerful storm that raged through the Midwest and the East Coast last week caused multiple injuries and deaths. Millions are without power and some will turn to generators to provide electricity.  Poison centers issue strong words of caution to people who use generators.  They are great devices for keeping a refrigerator running, but used improperly can cause illness and death.

Generators and other fuel-burning appliances emit carbon monoxide, which is called the “silent killer.”  You can’t smell it or see it, and it may not cause any more severe symptoms than a headache.

The poison experts at your local poison center have some important tips for using portable generators safely.   The American Association of Poison Control Centers recommends the following 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, weakness, or if your carbon monoxide alarm sounds, immediately seek fresh air and call your poison center at 1-800-222-1222.

The doctors, nurses and pharmacists who staff your local poison control center provide help 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year – even during emergencies. Poison centers have disaster plans in place so that if one center is damaged by a hurricane or other emergency, calls from that area can be routed immediately to another center for seamless coverage.

The American Association of Poison Control Centers supports the nation’s 57 poison centers in their efforts to prevent and treat poison exposures. Poison centers offer free, private, expert medical advice 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We take calls in more than 150 languages and from the hearing impaired.

For questions about poison or if you think someone has been exposed to a poison, call 1-800-222-1222 to reach your local poison center.


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