Generator-safety legislation still needed to combat deadly problem
August 30, 2006
WASHINGTON, D.C. –Last year during the hurricane season, 64 people died after being overcome by carbon monoxide fumes from portable generators.
As we face another hurricane season, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is renewing his call for federal legislation to combat the growing problem. On Thursday, Nelson sent a letter to Sen. Ted Stevens, the Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, and Sen. Daniel Inouye, the committee’s ranking member, requesting a hearing for the Portable Generator Safety Act (S. 2084), a bill he introduced late last year.
Nelson’s legislation would require all portable gas generators to carry a label clearly warning that carbon monoxide fumes can kill; and, direct the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to enact mandatory rules for shut-off switches before carbon monoxide levels became unsafe.
Late last year, Nelson criticized the CPSC for failing to enact mandatory safety standards for portable generators. At the time, he chided the agency for ignoring alarming increases in deaths caused by generator use and for failing to heed its own experts’ advice. A staff review undertaken by the CPSC commission in 2003 had recommended the use of conspicuous labels to better inform the public of the threat posed by using generators indoors or in poorly ventilated areas. The CPSC commission’s initial inaction to Nelson’s inquiry prompted him to file his legislation in December.
Under pressure from Nelson, the CPSC a few weeks ago proposed new mandatory labels, but has still failed to consider requiring emergency switches that shut off generators when carbon monoxide levels reach dangerous levels. Nelson says the CPSC’s actions don’t go far enough, and is continuing to push for passage of his legislation.
"This legislation deserves a hearing because safety regulators are still moving too slowly to resolve this problem," Nelson says.