The Dangers of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning While Boating

While boating, there are numerous dangers that can arise. Carbon monoxide poisoning is often overlooked as one of these potential hazards, but it should not be underestimated. It is a significant threat that should be taken seriously by all individuals on the boat.

What is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas that is highly toxic to humans. Although not typically thought of as a hazard in boating, CO poisoning is a serious risk that should be taken seriously by all boaters. This gas can quickly poison a person by preventing oxygen from reaching their vital organs, which can lead to serious health complications and even death.

Sources of Carbon Monoxide on Boats

Carbon monoxide is produced when carbon-based fuels like gasoline, diesel, propane, and natural gas are burned. On boats, sources of carbon monoxide include the engine, generator, water heater, and cooking range. Carbon monoxide poisoning can occur when these sources are not functioning properly. Additionally, it can occur if there isn’t proper ventilation, or when a person is exposed to the gas for an extended period. For example, this is one of the many reasons you shouldn’t swim near marinas or boatyards.

Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

The symptoms of CO poisoning can vary depending on the level and duration of exposure. Early symptoms of CO poisoning include headache, nausea, dizziness, and confusion. As exposure increases, symptoms can progress to include chest pain, seizures, and loss of consciousness. In extreme cases, CO poisoning can be fatal. It is important to recognize these symptoms and take immediate action if they occur.


Who is at Risk?

Everyone on a boat is at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning, but certain factors can increase a person’s risk. People who smoke or consume alcohol are at higher risk of CO poisoning, as are individuals with lung or heart conditions. It is essential for these people to be extra cautious and remove themselves from potential danger, as anyone can be poisoned by this invisible gas.

For more information, consult the Center’s for Disease Control and Prevention’s dedicated CO page.

Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Regular safety checkups of boats can help to prevent potential CO leaks. These checkups involve inspecting all potential hazard areas, such as the engine and anything that burns carbon-based fuel. It is also critical to install a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector and test it before every trip. The engine and exhaust systems should be routinely inspected by trained professionals to ensure they are functioning correctly.

Carbon monoxide poisoning is a serious risk that should not be taken lightly by boaters. It is essential to recognize the potential sources of CO on boats and take steps to prevent leaks.

Knowing the symptoms of CO poisoning and immediately seeking medical attention can save lives. To learn more about preventing carbon monoxide poisoning while boating, refer to the National Center for Environmental Health, which provides additional resources for preventing CO poisoning on boats.