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Residential Carbon Monoxide Exposure due to Indoor Generator Operation: Effects of Source Location and Emission Rate



Andrew K. Persily, Yanling Wang, Brian J. Polidoro, Steven J. Emmerich


The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and others are concerned about the hazard of acute residential carbon monoxide (CO) exposures from portable gasoline powered generators that can result in death or serious and/or lasting adverse health effects in exposed individuals. As of June 2010, CPSC databases contain records of 542 deaths from CO poisoning associated with consumer use of generators in the period of 1999 through 2009, with nearly two-thirds of those occurring between 2005 and 2009 [1]. Typically, these deaths occur when consumers use a generator in an enclosed or partially enclosed space or outdoors near an open door, window or vent. While avoiding the operation of such generators in or near a home is expected to reduce indoor CO exposures significantly, it may not be realistic to expect such usage to be eliminated completely. Another means of reducing these exposures would be to decrease the amount of CO emitted from these devices. In order to support health-based analyses of potential CO emission limits, a computer simulation study was conducted to evaluate indoor CO exposures as a function of generator source location and CO emission rate. These simulations employed the multizone airflow and contaminant transport model CONTAM, which was applied to a collection of 87 dwellings that are representative of the U.S. housing stock. A total of almost one hundred thousand individual 24-hour simulations were conducted. This report presents the simulation results in terms of the maximum levels of carboxyhemoglobin that would be experienced by occupants in the occupied portions of the dwellings as a function of CO emission rate for each indoor source location.
Technical Note (NIST TN) - 1782
Report Number


carbon monoxide, CONTAM, emergency generators, multizone airflow model, simulation


Persily, A. , Wang, Y. , Polidoro, B. and Emmerich, S. (2013), Residential Carbon Monoxide Exposure due to Indoor Generator Operation: Effects of Source Location and Emission Rate, Technical Note (NIST TN), National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, [online], (Accessed May 30, 2024)


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Created June 25, 2013, Updated November 10, 2018