Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Deadly Carbon Monoxide

October 1, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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This time of year brings colder temperatures and chilly winds, but the hardiest of boaters still enjoy their favorite activity. When they or their passengers shiver, the temptation is to put on the boat covers to block out the cold. Without being overdramatic, that could be a fatal mistake.

pirate icon. (with clipping path)Carbon monoxide (CO) is termed “a silent killer” because it is an odorless, colorless, and tasteless gas that can lead to death after prolonged exposure to low concentrations or very short exposure to high concentrations. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 400 people die in this country every year from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning.

CO is produced by the burning of carbon-based fuels, including gasoline, propane, charcoal, and oil. There are multiple sources on a boat that emit CO and others where it can be trapped. Jason Moore, a media representative for the U.S. Coast Guard, says, “Most incidents occur on older boats and within the cabin or other enclosed areas.”

Exhaust leaks — the leading cause of CO death — allows the killer gas to migrate throughout the boat and collect in enclosed areas. Blockage of exhaust outlets (from damage, wear, or the elements) can also cause CO to accumulate in the cabin and cockpit, especially when the windows and doors are closed.

Know the zones on your boat where CO may accumulate and keep passengers and crew away from these areas. Poisoning may occur when you’re underway, moored, or anchored. For instance, when an engine or generator is running, the rear of the boat is an unsafe area, so avoid swimming under the back deck or swim platform where exhaust pipes and vents can trap CO. CO may also flood into the cabin, cockpit, and bridge when operating the boat at a high bow angle. Although CO can be present without any odor, take immediate action if you smell exhaust fumes.

There may be no early warning sign of what’s coming, but in some cases, those suffering from CO poisoning may experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Irritated eyes
  • Nausea
  • Weakness

carbon monoxide detectorTime is not on your side, so never adopt a “wait and see” attitude. You can be affected by CO but not understand the serious threat it poses while there’s still time to react. “Dizziness and weakness are occasionally confused with intoxication and/or seasickness,” says Moore. “These symptoms are very similar to the flu, without the fever.”

To combat the effects of poisoning, flood the boat with fresh air. Open the windows and hatches and/or pull back the cover. Also, turn the boat so that the winds take the exhaust away or shut off the engines — do whatever it takes to stop the fumes from reaching in. Hail the U.S. Coast Guard or call 911 immediately.

All boats should have multiple CO detectors as recommended by the manufacturer or after-market installation guide. Boats with a generator should also have a 110-volt detector. Check detectors before each trip to be sure they are functioning properly. If the detector goes off, believe it!

While CO is a peril all year, the threat increases in the colder seasons — cold engines produce more CO than warm, and covers are more likely to stay on when the temperatures are chilly. Throw on an extra sweatshirt, maintain fresh air circulation, and run exhaust blowers extensively.

webPlus_web_green1  Boater’s checklist to prevent CO accumulation and video



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