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Simulation of Residential Carbon Monoxide Exposure Due to Generator Operation in Enclosed Spaces



Steven J. Emmerich, Brian J. Polidoro, William S. Dols


The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and others are concerned about the hazard of acute carbon monoxide (CO) exposures from portable gasoline powered generators that can result in death or serious adverse health effects in exposed individuals. As of May 15, 2015, the CPSC databases contain records of at least 702 deaths (involving 523 incidents) from CO poisoning caused by consumer use of a generator in the period of 2004 through 2014 (Hnatov 2015). There were an additional 49 CO poisoning deaths (involving 39 incidents) associated with consumer use of both a generator and at least one other CO-producing consumer appliance, for a total of 751 CO poisoning deaths (involving 562 incidents) associated with generators for the same 11-year period. The majority of 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 an enclosed space 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 rate at which CO is emitted from these devices. A computer simulation study was conducted to provide CPSC staff with information to enable comparisons of modeled residential CO exposures reflecting operation of current designs of portable engine-driven electric generators, inside homes or in attached garages, versus operation of reduced emission generators meeting a CO emission rate limit performance requirement being considered by CPSC staff under portable generator rulemaking activities.
Technical Note (NIST TN) - 1925
Report Number


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


Emmerich, S. , Polidoro, B. and Dols, W. (2016), Simulation of Residential Carbon Monoxide Exposure Due to Generator Operation in Enclosed Spaces, Technical Note (NIST TN), National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, [online], (Accessed April 21, 2024)
Created September 23, 2016, Updated November 10, 2018