A Guide to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Guide to Carbon Monoxide Poisoning (CO Poisoning)

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Boating and Boat Safety: Reduce the Odds of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

What is carbon monoxide?
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a deadly gas produced when carbon-based fuels are burned. It is odorless, tasteless, colorless, and can cause carbon monoxide poisoning by entering the bloodstream through the lungs and displacing oxygen levels in the body.

Carbon Monoxide and BoatingExposure to CO can cause nausea, headaches, dizziness, loss of mobility, and unconsciousness. The symptoms can be mistaken for seasickness, fatigue, or the flu. Common sources of CO emission on a boat include the engine, generators, cooking equipment, and heating appliances. Even when the boat is equipped with a carbon monoxide detector, the alarm is unlikely to be heard over the engine noise.

How does carbon monoxide get onboard a boat?
CO makes its way onto your boat in various ways. One way is referred to as the “station wagon" effect - this occurs when a moving boat creates a vacuum behind it that tends to pull exhaust fumes back into the boat. This occurrence is worsened when the wind is behind the boat, and the boat is traveling slightly faster than the wind is blowing. If the effect is particularly threatening, alter your course so that the wind is working to break the vacuum. Carbon monoxide emission is more difficult to detect in well-tuned gas engine boats than in diesel-run boats because diesel fumes usually have a much stronger odor.

Carbon monoxide is heavier than air and tends to collect in cabin spaces by entering through an open cabin door. Increase airflow throughout the cabin by leaving the rear cabin door ajar and by opening a window or hatch. Proper ventilation will clear the area of exhaust fumes. Like a car muffler, exhaust systems need frequent maintenance in order to detect possible leaks.

Tips to avoid carbon monoxide fumes when boating

  • Inspect exhaust system regularly (every 50 hours of operation or every 90 days, whichever comes first)
  • Repair any fume exhaust leaks immediately
  • Dock or drop anchor at least 20 feet away from other running boats
  • Change the direction of the boat if engine fumes are coming onboard
  • Install a carbon monoxide detector on gas-operated boats

Is it safe to sleep on a boat?
Most CO fatalities on boats occur when occupants are asleep and gas generators are running. For the most part, sleeping with a gas generator running is dangerous, unless the exhaust system is positively secure and a CO monitor is certified operational and in place. There must be a constant flow of air throughout the cabin while sleeping.

Should I install a CO monitor?
Carbon monoxide alarms are effective only when they are checked regularly and maintained. Their sensors can degrade after a fairly short period of time, rendering them less accurate. Because they are sensitive to contaminants, CO monitors will often sound off at the slightest change and not shut off. Like household fire detectors, the tendency is to disconnect and forget about them. Have the unit serviced by a qualified firm at least twice a season, usually at the beginning and end of the season to ensure their proper function.

Reduce the odds of carbon monoxide poisoning from boats by taking preventative measures and practicing safety. Non-lethal cases of CO poisoning are debilitating, painful and often result in a certain degree of brain damage. Being aware of the risk factors and symptoms of CO poisoning is the best defense. Enjoy boating in a safer, more conscious way.


About the Author: Alexandria Haber is a freelance writer and is the head researcher and content manager for http://www.carbon-monoxide-poisoning.com/.



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