As we experience the worst of winter’s cold and snow, many people find comfort knowing they have home generators to keep the lights on and their home warm. But it’s important to note that home generators are not without their risks. In 2013, 630 people were treated for unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning in emergency rooms throughout the state -- a not uncommon occurrence with the use of gas generators.
Of those 630 people, 44 were hospitalized. The year before, 19 New Jersey residents died from carbon monoxide poisoning.
What makes carbon monoxide particularly dangerous is that it's invisible and odorless. Exposure to low levels of CO can cause headaches, fatigue, and irritability, according to the state health department. At higher levels, it can cause nausea, vomiting, disorientation, irregular heartbeat, impaired vision, and death.
The state Health Department has issued a comprehensive list of tips for using generators. They include: Don’t run them in a basement, garage, or enclosed space. Never position them too close to windows or doors. Use battery-operated carbon-monoxide alarms. Always plug appliances directly into the generator, and ensure the generator is properly grounded.