• Research Reports

May 29, 2024

Understanding the Silent Threat

Carbon monoxide poisonings send more than 100,000 people to the emergency department in the United States each year — possibly far more, as symptoms are often misdiagnosed. UL Standards & Engagement’s ongoing consumer research on the topic reveals alarming misconceptions and knowledge gaps among the American public that can have devastating consequences, including a lack of awareness of common sources of CO in the home, underrating the importance of having functioning CO detection devices, and assuming protection when away from home.

Read about these misconceptions and knowledge gaps in this report from UL Standards & Engagement. 

Key findings in the report include:

  1. More than one-third of U.S. homes have no CO detection: One-third (36%) of U.S. adults — 86.2 million individuals — have no means of detecting CO leaks in their homes. Further, many Americans are confused about what counts as detection. Nearly three in ten (29%) U.S. consumers — more than an estimated 69 million Americans — say they do not need (17%) or are unsure (12%) if they need a CO alarm in the home if smoke alarms are present.
  2. Generator owners do not feel at risk — or know there is one: An estimated 29 million Americans own a portable generator, primarily to deal with power outages in extreme weather. Even though portable generators are a leading cause of CO poisonings, the ULSE survey found that 62% said they do not feel that they or their household are at risk of CO exposure or poisoning from their generator, and another 23% of generator owners did not realize that these appliances are a potential source of CO. 
  3. Assumed CO protection in public places: Despite an inconsistent patchwork of requirements and codes across states, Americans are largely not concerned with CO in public settings like churches, daycares, restaurants, and hotels. Half of Americans do not worry about exposure to CO in public spaces because they trust that CO alarms are installed. Nearly half (46%) of travelers do not worry about CO exposure when staying in hotels and rental properties because they assume CO alarms are installed, and another 44% say they believe every state has laws that require alarms.