Los Angeles, CA – Carbon Monoxide (CO) can be a “silent killer” on houseboats and other recreational vessels.
Each year, boaters are injured or killed by preventable carbon monoxide poisoning. Boaters have been poisoned by carbon monoxide in situations such as while setting fishing lines or performing maintenance on their boats while the engine was running.
“Teak surfers” or “drag surfers” are particularly susceptible to carbon monoxide poiso ning. This activity involves clinging to the swim platform or transom of an underway boat, then letting go and body surfing.
Exposure to engine exhaust can cause a teak surfer to faint, and if not wearing a life jacket, which interferes with body surfing, to drown not to mention the potential danger of propeller injury. Teak surfing is illegal in some states.
Carbon monoxide is produce by gasoline, propane, charcoal or wood. On boats some common sources of carbon monoxide include engines, generators, cooking ranges, space heaters, and water heaters.
Carbon monoxide can collect within a boat in a variety of ways. Exhaust leaks (the leading cause of death by carbon monoxide) can allow carbon monoxide to migrate throughout the boat and into enclosed areas. Even properly vented exhaust can re-enter a boat if it’s moored too close to a dock or another boat, or if the exhaust is pushed back by prevailing winds.
Exhaust can re-enter boats when cruising under certain conditions – the station wagon effect – especially with canvas in place. Exhaust can also collect in enclosed spaces near the stern swim platform.
There are many ways to protect your family from the dangers of carbon monoxide. Several of the different precautions a boater can take are listed below.
Use a Marine Carbon Monoxide Detector – These detectors work much like smoke alarms in houses. They sense a moderate level of carbon monoxide present on the vessel and emit a loud siren noise to alert the occupants of the danger.
Ensure Proper Ventilation – Open foredeck hatches and a window in the cabin to allow fresh air to travel through the vessel. Also, be aware that carbon monoxide can collect under a canopy.
Inspect Exhaust System Regularly – Look and listen for leaks in the exhaust system. Check each joint for discoloration, water leaks, carbon build-up or stains. Make sure all ventilation systems are in good repair and are not obstructed, restricted, or punctured. Seal gaps around engine room and exhaust system doors, hatches, and access panels.
Avoid the Transom – The transom is where carbon monoxide collects. Stay away from the transom while the vessel is idling or under way.
Educate Children – Instruct your children about the danger and presence of carbon monoxide on vessels.
Avoid Other Idling Vessels – Idling vessels are a very prominent source for high concentrations of carbon monoxide.
Symptoms of CO poisoning may include severe headache, dizziness, confusion, nausea, fainting, and death. Low levels can cause shortness of breath, mild nausea, and a mild headache.
Low levels are more dangerous in the boating environment because they can lead to drowning.
Carbon-monoxide poisoning may not be suspected immediately because the symptoms are similar to those of people with the flu, food poisoning, or other illnesses. If you suspect CO poisoning, immediately get the victim to fresh air and seek medical care.