Residential Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act will strengthen standards, decrease deaths (Sen. Bill Nelson)

I come from a state where people rely on portable generators to power their homes in the aftermath of hurricanes. However, it is also those life-sustaining machines that cause the highest number of carbon monoxide poisoning cases in Florida.

That’s why yesterday, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and I introduced legislation requiring the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to strengthen the standards on devices protecting Americans from carbon monoxide poisoning – a problem that is unfortunately widespread in the United States and especially in Florida.

There are three main components of the Residential Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act (S. 1216). The first part would require that indoor carbon monoxide detectors meet mandatory safety standards, instead of the current voluntary standards that are not followed by all manufacturers. These detectors can mean the difference between life and death, and we need to make sure that they work properly and meet uniform standards. The second would require the CPSC to complete its long-delayed review on whether portable generators could be equipped with safety mechanisms that could automatically shut off the machine if the levels of carbon monoxide in a house become threatening. The final component authorizes a voluntary program that would provide grants to states to carry out carbon monoxide detector installation assistance programs.

I’m sure you remember the intense hurricane seasons we experienced in 2004 and 2005. Well, in those two seasons alone, at least 12 Floridians died from carbon monoxide poisoning, and hundreds more were sent to hospitals for nonfatal carbon monoxide poisoning.

In response, I demanded action from the CPSC when they proposed a study rather than mandatory warning stickers for portable generators. Those warning stickers became mandatory in 2006, but it’s apparent that there is still so much more that can be done. If passed, this legislation will help us prevent some of these needless deaths.

Florida Senator Bill Nelson is a member of the Senate’s Commerce Committee.

More in Energy & Environment

Poison pills in spending bills threaten our air, water and wildlife

Read more »