Lake Barkley reminds all boaters of the hidden dangers of boating this summer. While carbon monoxide may not be at the forefront of your mind on a sunny adventure-filled summer day, it certainly should be. Here are some ways to keep you and your children safe as we head into the middle of the summer months.

How common is carbon monoxide poisoning while boating?

The US Coast Guard has reported that there were more than 40 incidences of boating-associated carbon monoxide 5 of which lead to fatalities in 2020. While boating isn't the most common way to be exposed to carbon monoxide, it should not be overlooked.

 According to a 2017 report from the US Coast Guard on recreational boating statistics, carbon monoxide ranks 5th in the top five known causes of boater deaths. 

Sources of carbon monoxide while on the water

These are some potential boating-related sources of carbon monoxide:

  • engines
  • generators
  • space and water heaters
  • cooking surfaces 

While these items don't always pose a risk here are a few things to keep in mind that could elevate the carbon monoxide output from them, incorrect installation, not enough ventilation, or if they are partially enclosed. 

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Other risk factors of boating-associated poisoning 

According to you and your passengers are at an even higher risk of developing issues associated with carbon monoxide if you do these eight things.

  1. Own or operate a boat with a rear-vented exhaust system. (This kind of vent system can unfortunately allow the buildup of noxious fumes above water levels near the boat's rear deck and swim platform.)
  2. By regularly traveling at low rates of speed and idling
  3. Operating your boat at a high bow angle, overloading or improperly loading your boat, or if you own a boat with an opening that draws in exhaust fumes. (This places you at a heightened risk for back drafting)
  4. Failure to maintain your watercraft properly. 
  5. Skiing, tubing, or wakeboarding 20 feet or less from the back end of the boat while in a mobile operation. 
  6. Sitting or swimming near or under the rear deck or platform while the engine or generator is on.
  7. Docking, dropping anchor, or rafting within 20 feet of other water vehicles with running gasoline engines. 
  8. Ignoring routine CO detector maintenance.  

How to stay safe from carbon monoxide while boating.

  • Boaters should keep a carbon monoxide detector on board at all times
  • Children should be seated in the most forward-positioned seats on the craft, the bow. 
  • Avoid idling the engine, and limit the exposure you have to other water craft's emissions.
  • Always maintain a fresh circulation of air.

Signs and Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.

  • Dizziness.
  • Headache.
  • Blurred vision
  • Confusion
  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Chest Pain
  • Difficulty breathing

Please remember to wear safety vests while on the water as well, and keep in mind all other typical precautions while on the water.

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