NJ – Kasi Addison, Star-Ledger Staff
An elderly Newark man who tried to stay warm using a gasoline- powered generator was found dead in his home Sunday, the victim of carbon monoxide poisoning, authorities said yesterday.
The 78-year-old man, identified by neighbors as Ulysses Lee, obtained the rented generator after his electricity was cut off 10 days ago, said Newark Detective Hubert Henderson.
When emergency personnel arrived at the North 7th Street home, they found the generator running in the kitchen and the windows closed. There was no sign of ventilation, Henderson said.
Lee was found in his bed, said Corey Sapp, who lives two doors down from Lee’s beige and blue- gray home.
Sapp said a relative of Lee’s brought over two generators to power the home, a large one for the porch and a smaller one for inside, after Lee’s electricity was cut off nearly two weeks ago.
According to the state Division of Fire Safety, the number of people killed each year by carbon monoxide ranges from 200 to 1,500 nationally.
Another 10,000 people seek medical attention for illnesses related to the gas, which can cause flu-like symptoms including dizziness, disorientation, headaches, nausea and fatigue.
Though electric space heaters have caused numerous fires in low- income areas, appliances like gas generators and kerosene heaters are often the source of carbon monoxide complaints, said Capt. Christopher Weiss, a spokesman for the East Orange Fire Department. Stoves left open for heat also cause problems, he said.
“In the inner cities, you have poorer people who lose their electricity and start making due with what they have,” Weiss said.
The simplest way to protect against carbon monoxide poisoning is to install a carbon monoxide detector, said Inspector Thomas Wilson of the Bloomfield Fire Department.
For people who already forget to change the batteries in smoke detectors, Wilson suggested a carbon monoxide detector that plugs into a wall outlet near the bedrooms.
“You want to know if it is getting to you while you are sleeping,” he said. “It is odorless, colorless and tasteless, so without a detector you won’t realize you are being poisoned.”