Fatal Attraction: Home Generators Used to Power Video Games

After a hurricane passes through, you might think that video games would be the last thing on the minds of people in the affected area.

You’d be wrong.

medpage TODAY reports that carbon monoxide poisoning caused by gasoline-fueled portable generators is a fairly common occurence following hurricanes. A surprising number of such incidents involve generators used to power video game systems:

Of 12 separate poisoning incidents in the Houston area in the wake of Hurricane Ike, which left two million people without power in September 2008, five resulted from the use of generators for video games, Caroline Fife, M.D., of the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, and colleagues reported.

Overall, 21 children and 17 adults were poisoned. A three-year-old died, and the others had symptoms ranging from nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and headache to chest pain, loss of consciousness, and coma, the researchers reported in the June issue of Pediatrics.

"This is the first study to suggest that generators are commonly used immediately after a large-scale power outage to power entertainment electronics for children," they said.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission told medpage TODAY:

Operating a generator inside your home produces poisonous levels of carbon monoxide equal to that of hundreds of cars running inside your home.

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