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Coast Guard Auxiliary Warns - Don't Be the Victim of the "Silent Killer"

LOS ANGELES, Calif. Carbon Monoxide (CO) can be a “silent killer” on houseboats and other recreational vessels. Each year, boaters are injured or killed by preventable carbon monoxide poisoning. Boaters have been poisoned by carbon monoxide in situations such as while setting fishing lines or performing maintenance on their boats while the engine was running. “Teak surfers” or “drag surfers” are particularly susceptible to carbon monoxide poisoning. This activity involves clinging to the swim platform or transom of an underway boat, then letting go and body surfing. Exposure to engine exhaust can cause a teak surfer to faint, and if not wearing a life jacket, (which interferes with body surfing), to drown – not to mention the potential danger of propeller injury. Teak surfing is illegal in some states.

Carbon monoxide is produced by gasoline, propane, charcoal or wood. On boats some common sources of carbon monoxide include engines, generators, cooking ranges, space heaters, and water heaters. Carbon monoxide can collect within a boat in a variety of ways. Exhaust leaks (the leading cause of death by carbon monoxide) can allow carbon monoxide to migrate throughout the boat and into enclosed areas. Even properly vented exhaust can re-enter a boat if it’s moored too close to a dock or another boat, or if the exhaust is pushed back by prevailing winds. Exhaust can re-enter boats when cruising under certain conditions – the station wagon effect – especially with canvas in place. Exhaust can also collect in enclosed spaces near the stern swim platform.

There are many ways to protect your family from the dangers of carbon monoxide. Several of the different precautions a boater can take are listed below.

Use a Marine Carbon Monoxide Detector – These detectors work much like smoke alarms in houses. They sense a moderate level of carbon monoxide present on the vessel and emit a loud siren noise to alert the occupants of the danger.

Ensure Proper Ventilation – Open foredeck hatches and a window in the cabin to allow fresh air to travel through the vessel. Also, be aware that carbon monoxide can collect under a canopy.

Inspect Exhaust System Regularly – Look and listen for leaks in the exhaust system. Check each joint for discoloration, water leaks, carbon build-up or stains. Make sure all ventilation systems are in good repair and are not obstructed, restricted, or punctured. Seal gaps around engine room and exhaust system doors, hatches, and access panels.

Avoid the Transom – The transom is where carbon monoxide collects. Stay away from the transom while the vessel is idling or underway.
Educate Children – Instruct your children about the danger and presence of carbon monoxide on vessels.

Avoid Other Idling Vessels – Idling vessels are a very prominent source for high concentrations of carbon monoxide.

Symptoms of CO poisoning may include severe headache, dizziness, confusion, nausea, fainting, and death. Low levels can cause shortness of breath, mild nausea, and a mild headache. Low levels are more dangerous in the boating environment because they can lead to drowning. Carbon-monoxide poisoning may not be suspected immediately because the symptoms are similar to those of people with the flu, food poisoning, or other illnesses. If you suspect CO poisoning, immediately get the victim to fresh air and seek medical care.

Recognizing the dangers of CO poisoning some states, such as California now require warning labels (below)

The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary says “a successful boating outing begins when you leave home and ends when you safely return home.” For more potentially life-saving information along with how to take a boating safety course or get a free vessel safety check from the Coast Guard Auxiliary visit

The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary is the uniformed civilian component of the United States Coast Guard. Created by an Act of Congress in 1939, the Auxiliary directly supports the Coast Guard in all missions, except military and direct law enforcement actions. The Coast Guard Auxiliary is an integral part of the United States Coast Guard. For more information visit if you are ready to join visit .