Boating and Carbon Monoxide Danger

Boating and Carbon Monoxide Danger
When it comes to boating, there are lots of potential hazards a person may face on the open water. One that rarely comes up is carbon monoxide danger. Believe it or not, this can be a serious risk that everyone on the boat should take seriously.

Understanding Carbon Monoxide Danger

Carbon monoxide is a clear, odorless and tasteless gas. That said, even though it cannot be seen or smelled… that doesn’t mean it is not dangerous. In fact, this makes it even more of a hazard. You see, carbon monoxide can poison a person rather quickly. The gas enters a person’s bloodstream through the lungs and can prevent oxygen from getting to their vital organs.

This gas is often produced when a carbon-based fuel burns. On a boat, this can come from the engine, but also a generator, water heater or even a cooking range. If a person is suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning, they may experience some of these symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Irritated eyes
  • Confusion or dizziness
  • Nausea, seizures or even a loss of consciousness

In the water, these symptoms can result in a serious risk of drowning. If you, or a member of your party, seem to be suffering from these effects, the first step is to get into the fresh air. Once you are away from the source of the carbon monoxide danger, be sure to seek medical help.

Who is Most at Risk?

While anyone is at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning, some factors can put a person at more risk than others. For example, people who smoke or consume alcohol will be significantly more susceptible. Of course, we’ve written about the dangers of drinking alcohol near the water before.

Besides smoking and drinking, people with certain health issues, such as lung or heart conditions, may be more at risk. Above all, anyone can be poisoned by this invisible gas, so it pays to be extra careful and remove yourself from potential danger.

Taking Steps to Avoid the Danger

Typically, carbon monoxide tends to sit about six inches over the water’s surface. If you are swimming, this is likely right around where your head will be peaking out of the water. Obviously, this is not ideal.

To prevent any possible carbon monoxide leaks, it is important to have regular safety checkups for your boat. This includes inspecting all the potential hazard areas, like the motor and anything that burns carbon-based fuel.

Before setting off, install a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector. This device should be tested and in perfect working order every time you get on the boat. Be aware that it only takes a few seconds for a potentially lethal amount of carbon monoxide to build up. For this reason, the engine and exhaust systems should be routinely inspected by trained professionals. A bit of forethought about boating and carbon monoxide danger could save you or a loved one’s life.

To learn more about preventing carbon monoxide poisoning on your boat, refer to the National Center for Environmental Health.