Consumers Union: Greater safety, transparency needed for portable generators

Experts

Senior Policy Analyst
Vice President, Advocacy
Sr. Director, Strategic Communications

Industry proposal a step forward, but lacks key elements to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning

Thursday, December 14, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Consumers Union, the policy and mobilization division of Consumer Reports (CR), today called on manufacturers of portable generators to add requirements that would strengthen a proposed industry standard for the safety and performance of the products. In a letter to the Portable Generator Manufacturers’ Association (PGMA), CR recognized manufacturers’ progress on a voluntary safety standard, and said it “would not want to let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” but also urged PGMA to make key changes to the standard that would better protect consumers.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, about 70 people die and several thousand are injured in the U.S. each year, on average, from generator-related carbon monoxide poisoning. CR has long educated consumers about the safety risks of portable generators, which emit carbon monoxide at a rate many times higher than an idling car, and has advocated for stronger standards to improve the generators’ safety mechanisms.

“Portable generators should not be putting consumers’ lives at risk. Today, carbon monoxide poisoning is far too common—including, tragically, in the aftermath of severe storms and power outages,” said William Wallace, policy analyst for Consumers Union. “The industry is moving in the right direction. Simple changes—like warning consumers to place the generator farther from the house, reducing emissions, and having generators shut down when they detect elevated carbon monoxide levels—could save many lives. We urge PGMA and its member companies to agree to a standard that’s strong enough to keep people safe.”

CR’s letter to the manufacturers was sent as part of vote on a draft voluntary standard that PGMA intends to propose for recognition by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). As a voting participant in the development of the standard, CR decided to withhold a “yes” vote at this time. Instead, CR voted “abstain,” because based on available evidence, there are aspects of the standard that do not adequately account for consumer safety.

As the standards-setting process moves forward, CR will continue to work with manufacturers, regulators, and other safety advocates to achieve a single, strong, enforceable standard that eliminates or sufficiently reduces deaths and injuries associated with portable generators.

***

Contact: David Butler, dbutler@consumer.org, 202-462-6262

Consumer Reports is the world’s largest independent product-testing organization. Using its more than 50 labs, auto test center, and survey research center, the nonprofit rates thousands of products and services annually. Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports has over 7 million subscribers to its magazine, website, and other publications. Its policy and mobilization division, Consumers Union, works for health reform, food and product safety, financial reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.