Carbon monoxide (CO) is odorless, colorless and outright deadly if you breathe too much of it.
Unfortunately, according to a 2018 report on recreational boating, it’s the fifth leading cause of death among boaters and one of the most common causes of injury. By its very nature, carbon monoxide is hard to detect, and many boaters don’t realize they’re in danger until it’s too late.
That makes it particularly important to educate yourself about the hazards of carbon monoxide on boats and what you can do to stay safer.
How does carbon monoxide end up on a boat?
Carbon monoxide is produced any time a carbon-based fuel is burned. That includes gasoline or propane – both of which can be used on houseboats or larger vessels in the engine, generators, space heaters and cooking ranges.
While some boats are equipped with vents that are supposed to draw the carbon monoxide away, that doesn’t necessarily eliminate the problem. Vents can get closed on accident and malfunction if they’re not properly installed or maintained.
The gas can easily get drawn back into the cabin or cockpit of the boat when the bow angle is high, and it can also collect in the spaces near the water platform near the swim deck or beneath the stern.
How do you protect yourself from carbon monoxide poisoning?
First, it’s important to know the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning so that you can spot problems in yourself or others.
CO poisoning generally produces vague symptoms that often make people think that they’re getting the flu. Headaches, dizziness, nausea and fatigue are very common. If the poisoning continues, a victim may eventually become confused, disoriented and faint – all of which can lead to significant injuries even if they survive the carbon monoxide.
To protect yourself:
- Never get on a boat that doesn’t have working CO detectors. These can give you a warning of a problem before you even begin to feel the effects of the gas.
- Never venture near the areas where the engines are vented and make sure that someone always supervises anyone on the swim decks or water platforms.
- Watch for blocked CO exhaust outlets due to carelessly placed personal items, backpacks or boating equipment.
If you’ve been injured in a boating incident due to carbon monoxide poisoning or your loved one was killed, recognize that the relationship between ordinary personal injury and maritime injury law can be very complex. Find out more about your legal options today.