Federal foot-dragging on dangerous portable generators

Trump’s point person on the Consumer Safety Commission ignores efforts to make the appliances safer

Published September 16, 2018 11:29AM (EDT)

 (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)
(AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)

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People can expect to die after Hurricane Florence, not from the storm itself, but from carbon-monoxide poisoning from portable generators the Trump administration has failed to make safer.

At least 12 people using these generators died during Hurricane Irma in 2017, people like Terryn Wilson, 7, whose mother got a generator after the storm, and Desiree Diaz Molina, 34, and her daughters, Kiara Lebron Diaz, 16, and Jan Lebron Diaz, 13. More died in Hurricanes Harvey and Maria, especially in Puerto Rico.

“How many more deaths from generators in the aftermath of hurricanes are we going to ask to see before the Consumer Product Safety Commission, looking out for consumer safety, finally gets around to saying: Enough?” asked Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.

Portable generators are one of the deadliest consumer products on the market. An average of 70 people a year have died because of portable generators since 2005. Another 2,800 people a year suffer from carbon-monoxide poisoning.

A 5,000-watt portable generator gives of about 1,500 grams of carbon monoxide an hour, about as much as 450 idling mid-sized late-1990s cars. The generators can poison people so quickly they become confused and lose consciousness.

In November 2016, the commission voted 4-1 for a rule that would force manufacturers of portable generators to lower carbon-monoxide emissions.

After Trump took office, he nominated the lone person to vote against safer generators, former Congresswoman Ann Marie Buerkle, to chair the commission. She has not been confirmed by the Senate.

In August 2017, Buerkle announced that the commission would drop efforts to impose mandatory standards for portable generators and instead endorse voluntary standards proposed by the portable generator industry.

In May, the Senate narrowly confirmed another Trump nominee to the commission, attorney Dana Baiocco, who has opposed requiring portable generators to be equipped with devices to limit carbon-monoxide emissions.

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By Sarah Okeson

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Consumer Safety Consumer Safety Commission Dc Report Hurricane Hurricane Florence Portable Generators