With winter entrenched, the Consumer Product Safety Commission is again warning the public against using portable gasoline-powered generators or charcoal grills indoors or in attached garages or basements when power is knocked out by storms.
Not everyone knows the full risks of the deadly carbon monoxide (CO) that's given off: 170 Americans die from it each year.
In December, for instance, two men in Liberty Town, Md., died from carbon monoxide poisoning after an ice storm knocked out their electricity.
To keep food from spoiling, they hooked up a generator to their freezer in the basement. A side door was propped open to dispel fumes, but the CO seeped upstairs through a heating register.
"If you want to use a gasoline-powered generator when the power goes out, set it up outside in a dry area, away from air intakes to the home," said CPSC Chairman Hal Stratton, adding that there's no safe way to bring CO-producing generators or heaters inside. "Opening doors and windows or operating fans to ventilate is inadequate and unsafe.
"Everyone should have a carbon monoxide detector in their home to detect this silent killer. Even with a CO alarm, you should never use a gasoline-powered generator or a charcoal grill inside."
Another caution: The same hazard can occur when automobiles are left running in an attached garage and gas ranges are used to heat homes.
The gas is colorless and odorless. Symptoms begin flu-like, with dizziness, fatigue, headache, nausea and irregular breathing.
Telemarketers Strike Back
Calling it "this misguided government interference in the free marketplace," the D.C.-based American Teleservices Association, the trade organization that represents telemarketers, recently filed lawsuits in federal courts to stop the Federal Trade Commission from establishing a national do-not-call registry. The FTC has said the registry could be implemented about seven months after Congress approves its start-up funding, included in the omnibus appropriations bill now stuck in Congress.
The ATA says the FTC's plan violates the First and Fifth Amendments and oversteps the commission's authority. It argued that the registry would put "million of jobs at risk." The telemarketing industry, the ATA estimates, employs 6 million workers and contributes more than $660 billion a year to the U.S. economy.
The bottom line for consumers? ATA's director of government affairs, Matt Mattingley, said the FTC's "all-or-nothing" approach would prevent consumers from hearing an offer "they might otherwise accept."
Computer Rip-Off Refund
If you bought a personal computer via an online auction from Maryland Internet auction seller Michael Rymer and you never received the computer or a refund, the Maryland Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division wants to hear from you.
Rymer, the division alleges, sold but didn't deliver computers to "dozens of consumers" who paid an average of $1,800 each. He also promised refunds but never paid them, the division says.
In reaching a settlement with the attorney general's office last month, Rymer promised to refund money to those consumers, post a $20,000 surety bond to insure his future online auction sales, and pay a $20,000 penalty that will be waived if he fully complies with the settlement over three years.
Got a consumer complaint? Question? E-mail details to email@example.com or write Don Oldenburg, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.