Carbon monoxide poisoning
Carbon Monoxide is the leading cause of death by poisoning. Every year, people die needlessly because they didn't realize the danger. This colorless, odorless gas is given off by the normal operation of any fuel-burning appliance or engine aboard a boat. It may escape from exhaust systems into the cabin area, where the concentrations of the gas can quickly become high enough to kill you.
- A tasteless, odorless, and colorless gas.
- Not the same thing as carbon dioxide - much more dangerous.
- Same weight as air so it tends to distribute throughout the cabin.
- Produced by gas and diesel engines, fuel-burning appliances such as stoves, heaters, water heaters, lamps, fireplaces and charcoal barbecues.
Effects of Exposure
- Breathing CO blocks the ability of your blood to carry oxygen.
- Closely mimic symptoms of seasickness.
- First symptoms of CO poisoning are drowsiness, headache, fatigue, dizziness, confusion, nausea.
- Continued exposure results in convulsions, coma, brain damage, and death.
- Never run engines or generators in your boat while you sleep.
- Inspect all exhaust systems to detect leaks. Use double clamps on hoses. Seal off the engine area tightly from the living area.
- Do not use portable generators inside as they do not meet any fuel or electrical standards for inside use.
- Install a CO detector in the cabin, but do NOT depend on it.
- Ventilate the cabin while using any fuel-burning appliance - open the hatch or a nearby porthole.
- CO can accumulate in the cabin when underway - open a port or hatch if anyone is below while the engine is running.
- Immediately move anyone showing any symptoms of CO poisoning into fresh air. See a doctor if any symptoms persist.
- If the person is unconscious, immediately administer oxygen or CPR and call for emergency help.
Canada has no regulations, but the ABYC (American Boat & Yacht Council) standard requires CO detectors aboard boats with enclosed living space. The RV (motorhomes) industry has required CO detectors installed since 1993. Unfortunately, consumer testing has shown that detector technology doesn't work well on boats. One test in homes showed a one third failure rate. Some older units have had recalls to replace detector units - check with manufacturers! According to Powerboat Reports magazine (Sep/99), Fireboy/Xintex is one of only two makers of CO detectors made specifically for boats. They report that Figero USA has a new sensor ready for testing. Use a CO detector in your boat, but do NOT depend on it. Until we have better detectors, prevention is imperative.
This page is courtesy of Pat's Boating in Canada, and honors the memory of Eric William Currier who died October 9, 1999, of carbon monoxide poisoning with his boat generator running and ports closed. Boaters at Village Quay Marina in Ivy Lea, Ontario will miss him.
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