• Press Release

May 29, 2024

New Report: 86 Million Americans Are Unprotected Against Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Washington, D.C. - Today, UL Standards & Engagement released a report highlighting survey data that shows an alarming number of U.S. adults have no means of detecting carbon monoxide in their homes and believe they are protected when they are in public places, despite a limited and inconsistent patchwork of requirements across localities. 

“Americans are making dangerous assumptions about carbon monoxide that contribute to a false sense of security that they are protected or that poisoning won't happen to them,” said Sayon Deb, director of primary insights at UL Standards & Engagement. “Even with portable generators, which are the dominant cause of carbon monoxide deaths, we found major gaps in knowledge about safe operation and relatively low concern about exposure.”

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. Portable generators, most commonly purchased for extreme weather incidents, are a leading cause of unintentional CO poisoning. As hurricane season approaches, the ULSE report underscores the importance of the safe handling and use of portable generators. 

With an increase in extreme weather, portable generator usage is likely to increase, emphasizing the importance of protecting against the threat of CO poisoning. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s outlook, released last week, is the most aggressive May prediction the agency has ever made. In the outlook, experts are predicting an above normal 2024 season with 17 to 25 tropical storms, eight to 13 hurricanes and four to seven “major” hurricanes.  

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 deaths, 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. 

“Detection is prevention,” said Dr. George Borlase, vice president of standards development at UL Standards & Engagement, which has more than 75 safety standards related to carbon monoxide protection. “Because CO is colorless and orderless, a CO alarm is essential. The work we do in standards development is critical to protecting individuals from this silent killer.”  

UL Standards & Engagement has several standards designed to protect against the dangerous assumptions Americans are making about CO. UL 2034, the Standard for Single and Multiple Station Carbon Monoxide Alarms, issued two updates in recent years to expand protection options to places like motels, restaurants, commercial vehicles, and more that may not be protected currently against carbon monoxide. The most recent update came as the result of a proposal from Kris Hauschildt, founder of the Jenkins Foundation, named for Daryl and Shirley Jenkins who lost their lives to CO poisoning in a North Carolina hotel. Hauschildt also serves on the technical committee for UL 2034 and is a champion of better protection against CO exposure in hotels and vacation rentals.

For portable generators, UL 2201, the Standard for Carbon Monoxide Emission Rate of Portable Generators, limits the amount of CO emissions and requires an automatic shutoff if CO levels rise too high. According to a CPSC analysis that ran 140,000 simulations that replicated 511 fatalities in the agency’s database, generators compliant to UL 2201 would avert nearly 100% (99.997%) of those deaths. ULSE also released UL 1008M, the Standard for Transfer Switch, Equipment, Meter-Mounted, which provides requirements for equipment that enables homeowners to safely connect portable generator power to a home at the meter base outdoors, reducing the likelihood of an individual running a generator indoors.

“Using portable generators that comply with safety standards and following manufacturer guidelines are critical steps in protecting you and your family from CO poisoning,” added Dr. Borlase. “Even with certified products, consumers should always have a CO alarm present. Detection can and will save lives.”

Read the full report here. 



The results are taken from four ULSE Insights surveys, each consisting of responses from 2,000+ U.S. adults conducted August 30 – September 3, 2023, September 29 – October 4, 2023, October 28 – November 1, 2023, and December 14-18, 2023. All studies were designed and formulated by UL Standards & Engagement. Surveys were administered online by BV Insights. As a member of the Insights Association and ESOMAR (the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research), BV Insights adheres to industry ethics and best practices, including maintaining the anonymity of respondents.

After data collection was completed, completed interviews were weighted by five variables: age, sex, geographic region, race, and education, to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the total U.S. population, 18 years of age and older. In the analysis and presentation of some data, calculations reference U.S. online adult population estimated at 240.2 million using two sources of publicly available data: 2020 wave of the U.S. Census for U.S. adult population estimate of 258.3 million, and Pew Research Center’s Internet/ Broadband Fact Sheet which estimates 93% of U.S. adults use the internet, as of 2021. 

The margin of sampling error at 95% confidence for aggregate results is +/- 2.2%. Sampling error is larger for subgroups of the data. As with any survey, sampling error is only one source of possible error. While non-sampling error cannot be accurately calculated, precautionary steps were taken in all phases of the survey design and the collection and processing of the data to minimize its influence. 

Note: All numbers are percentages unless otherwise noted. Figures may not total 100% due to rounding.

About ULSE

UL Standards & Engagement is a nonprofit organization that translates safety science into action through standards development, partnerships and advocacy. Since 1903, we have developed nearly 1,700 standards and guidance documents for products ranging from fire doors to autonomous vehicles. ULSE enables innovation and grows trust by convening experts and informing policymakers and regulators as we work toward a safer, more secure and sustainable future. Visit ulse.org for more information.



Catie Talenti
UL Standards & Engagement
Senior Strategic Communications Specialist
P: (607) 742-8766