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Boating Basics

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that is very toxic even in small quantities. It is produced when a carbon-based fuel, such as gasoline or diesel, is burned. Cooking ranges, heaters, and charcoal grills produce carbon monoxide also.

Carbon Monoxide Kills

Carbon monoxide disperses freely through the air and will travel readily throughout a boat.

  • Carbon monoxide discharged as engine, generator, or appliance exhaust may re-enter your boat through any opening.
  • A marine-type carbon monoxide detector will sound an alarm when the gases reach an unacceptable level.

The best prevention for carbon monoxide poisoning is knowing that carbon monoxide exists.

  • By keeping a steady flow of fresh air moving through your boat, you will eliminate much, if not all, of the hazard. The danger comes when there are pockets of stagnant air loaded with carbon monoxide that are not flushed from your boat.
  • When operating any type of watercraft, be careful running downwind because exhaust gases may blow back on board.

Everyone should know the symptoms and treatment of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

One or more of the following symptoms may signal the adverse effects of carbon monoxide accumulations:

  • Throbbing temples
  • Inattentiveness or lack of concentration
  • Inability to think coherently
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Tightness across the chest
  • Headache, drowsiness, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, vomiting, collapse, and convulsions

For additional information, read Boaters Protect Yourself from this Silent Killer! Carbon Monoxide, a brochure produced by the Arizona Game and Fish Department that is available by contacting your nearest Arizona Game and Fish Department office.

Treatment of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Evacuate, Ventilate, Investigate, and Seek Medical Help.

Teak surfing, platform dragging, wakesurfing and water-skiing within 12 feet of a moving watercraft can be fatal.

  • Stay away from the exhaust ports—carbon monoxide builds up in areas near exhaust vents.
  • DO NOT swim in areas where carbon monoxide may accumulate, such as the cavity between the swim platform and the stern of the boat.
CO2 poisoning
Exhaust gases near the swim platform can cause carbon monoxide poisoning.