Carbon Monoxide: The Silent Killer

PORTSMOUTH, Va. – Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a colorless, tasteless and odorless gas that recently brought a tragic end to the lives of three Baltimore area boaters onboard a 30-foot cabin cruiser.

The Coast Guard encourages boaters to be aware of this silent and invisible killer on the water by providing the following safety information about locations Carbon Monoxide poisoning can take place onboard a vessel, how to spot the symptoms of poisoning and the steps they can take to prevent carbon monoxide buildup as the summer boating season gets underway.

Why is Carbon Monoxide so dangerous?

Carbon Monoxide can occur anywhere onboard their vessel at any time, whether it is running, shut off at anchor or moored to the pier.

The gas enters a victim’s bloodstream through the lungs, blocking oxygen and preventing their body from properly functioning. Prolonged exposure to small concentrations or sudden exposures to high concentrations are equally lethal.

Early symptoms of CO poisoning include eye irritation, headache, nausea, weakness and dizziness. These symptoms are often confused with seasickness or intoxication so those affected may not receive the medical attention they need.

Common Carbon Monoxide sources onboard vessels include:

  • Engines
  • Gas Generators
  • Cooking Ranges
  • Space and water heaters

Protecting Yourself and Others

The Coast Guard recommends that boaters take the following steps to protect themselves and others from the dangers of Carbon Monoxide:

  • Install and maintain CO detectors on and inside your boat. The detectors are a great reasonably priced, safety device that even boaters on a shoestring budget can afford. Do not ignore the alarms and replace as recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Maintain a fresh circulation of air through the boat at all times.
  • Treat Symptoms of seasickness as possible CO poisoning and quickly get the victim to a well ventilated area.
  • Avoid any area of the vessel where exhaust fumes may be present, if exhaust fumes are detected on the vessel take immediate action to ventilate the affected area.

The Coast Guard encourages boaters to visit the Coast Guard Boating website for more safety tips.

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