Carbon monoxide poisoning is not often thought of when on the water, but boaters need to be aware of the situations that can put them at risk of illness or even death.
“Carbon monoxide is silent, odorless, and deadly,” said Susan Stocker, boating law administrator and education coordinator for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. “Boaters need to be aware of this risk especially when traveling at slow speeds, or idling which can cause carbon monoxide to build up on the boat. The same applies to a tailwind, which may blow exhaust towards passengers.”
Boaters are encouraged to avoid holding onto any portion of a swim platform, swim deck, swim step or swim ladder for any amount of time while the boat is underway at any speed or the engine is idling. Anyone near the boat's engine or generator exhaust is exposed to carbon monoxide, which can cause them to lose consciousness and drown.
Carbon monoxide poisoning can easily be mistaken for having too much sun, dehydration or seasickness. Other symptoms may include headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion. If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, seek immediate medical attention, she said. Stocker offered some tips to minimize exposure and impact of carbon monoxide.
- Install and maintain a marine carbon monoxide detector
- Put children in the forward-most seating on the boat
- Avoid exposure to other boats' emissions
- Maintain fresh air circulation at all times