Mankato, MN – We are the land of more than 10,000 lakes and we have the boats to prove it.

Minnesota ranks No. 1 in the country for most boats per capita at more than 540,000 motorboats, according to the state Department of Natural Resources. With that ownership comes responsibility. So it’s appropriate we are the first state in the nation aimed at carbon monoxide poisonings caused by boats.

A law going into effect during the next year requires boats with enclosed areas that accommodate people include carbon monoxide detectors. The deadly gas can build up from an idling motor, generator or faulty motor exhaust system.

Although carbon monoxide poisoning deaths caused by boats are not a common occurrence, it has happened three times in Minnesota over nine years, including that of 7-year-old Sophia Baechler. She died in October on Lake Minnetonka when carbon monoxide, which is colorless and odorless, leaked from a hole in the boat’s exhaust pipe.

Sophia’s parents are both doctors who tried to save her, but the poisoning hit hard and fast. She died fewer than 10 minutes after complaining of a headache and lying down. It was determined a muskrat had chewed through the exhaust pipe, creating a hole underneath a mattress area in the watercraft.

The family pushed for the detector law to prevent other avoidable loss of life.

Detection is simple and relatively inexpensive, with hard-wired marine-certified carbon monoxide detectors soon to be required on affected watercraft.

Although the law doesn’t kick in until next spring, there’s no reason for boaters to wait. Installing a detector today could mean a safer boat ride tomorrow.