Boating and Carbon Monoxide – The Silent Killer

Although not a large statistic, every year 15 to 20  boaters die from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.

What makes it a silent killer is CO is colorless and odorless, and you usually don’t know that you are being poisoned until it is too late. It acts quickly, as it is absorbed into the blood stream at a rate that is 200 times faster than that of oxygen. It actually replaces the oxygen in your blood stream with CO. So basically a victim suffocates to death from the lack of oxygen.

The symptoms of CO poisoning are nausea, headaches and drowsiness. In the early stages of CO poisoning the symptoms are similar to that of feeling of seasick. If not recognized and acted upon, CO can kill a person in a matter of minutes.

To avoid CO poisoning, make sure that exhaust fumes are ventilated properly. Be educated on how CO poisoning happens and avoid situations that would put you and your boaters at risk.

The types of situations that are higher risk to CO poisoning are:

  • Swimming in an area, like the back of a boat, or a swimming platform, where a generator or the engine are being operated.
  • Floating next to or near a boat that is just idling.
  • Board (Teak) surfing behind a boat.
  • Improper cabin ventilation, especially while sleeping.

One of the easiest and cheapest ways to avoid the risk of a poisoning event is to purchase and properly install carbon monoxide detectors in your boat, and to make sure you test them regularly and replace the batteries at least once a year.

The fun of boating can be dashed with a tragic event like carbon monoxide poisoning. So take the necessary precautions and enjoy a hazard-free boating outing.