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Beware of carbon monoxide while boating

Once spring makes an appearance, many Texas boating enthusiasts begin making plans for boating adventures. If you are among these Texans, then you may be preparing your boat and going over a safety checklist to make sure that nothing interrupts your time on the water.

One consideration that you may not think of is whether your boat presents a threat of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning to you and those you invite to come along with you. Many people across the country become ill or even die from this odorless, tasteless and colorless gas each year. There are precautions you and your guests can take in order to avoid becoming victims of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Do you know the dangers on your boat from CO?

You may want to know some basics about this danger and how to avoid it. In addition to knowing that carbon monoxide can't be seen, tasted or smelled, you may want to consider the following:

  • Leaving your engine running creates CO.
  • Everyone should stay away from the areas of your boat that lack proper ventilation while your engine runs.
  • You and the others on your boat need to avoid sitting on or hanging onto the swim platform while the engine runs since CO emissions, along with other gases, build up in that area.
  • It only takes seconds to become ill from CO.
  • High amounts of CO can cause death.
  • It's easy to mistake CO poisoning for alcohol intoxication or seasickness.
  • If you suspect that CO has built up on your boat, open all of the ports, hatches and windows for ventilation to remove the gases.
  • If you suspect that someone on your boat suffers from CO poisoning, move that person away from the source into the fresh air and get him or her medical attention.

You could install a marine grade CO detector on your boat that alerts you when emissions become dangerous. You should also make sure that you properly maintain your boat. An engine that isn't properly tuned can produce higher than normal amounts of CO.

Do you know the symptoms of CO poisoning?

If you or someone on your boat gets light-headed, dizzy, nauseous or vomits, it could be a sign of CO poisoning. Other symptoms include shortness of breath, weakness, fatigue, headaches and blurred vision. Anyone experiencing these symptoms would more than likely need medical attention right away. The long-term effects of CO poisoning include cardiac complications, brain damage and tissue damage. You could even experience heart failure.

You may be watchful for CO emissions and signs of CO poisoning, but not all boat owners are. If you are on another person's boat and become ill, it may result from some negligence on the boat owner's part. If a CO detector failed to warn you or another boat owner of dangerous emissions, you may have a cause of action against the manufacturer. If you suffered from CO poisoning or lost a loved one to it while out on a boat, you may have legal options for pursuing compensation.

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