September 2012

Steer clear of exhaust

Simple steps to avoid CO poisoning

You see them every day: swimmers holding onto the swim platform chatting with friends onboard, boats anchored close together with air conditioners chugging away, children teak surfing off the swim platform of the family boat. All of these situations could become fatal because of the high risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Produced by the burning of carbon-based fuels, deadly, invisible carbon monoxide gas has no taste or smell.

Carbon monoxide from the exhaust of inboard engines, outboard engines and generators can build up inside and outside boats in areas near exhaust vents, such as the swim platform, making it dangerous to congregate or swim in these areas when the motor or generator is running.

Carbon monoxide safety check

  • Make sure exhaust hose ends are double-clamped and secure.
  • Check exhaust system components for exhaust leaks, indicated by rust or black streaks, water leaks, or cracked or corroded fittings.
  • Inspect rubber exhaust hoses for evidence of burning or cracking.
  • Confirm that water flows from the exhaust outlet when you start the engines and generator.
  • Listen for changes in exhaust sound that could indicate an exhaust component failure.

Exhaust from neighboring boats also poses a serious danger to docked, beached or anchored boats, making them vulnerable to carbon monoxide intrusion in the cabin and cockpit.

Blocked exhaust outlets can cause carbon monoxide to accumulate in the cabin and cockpit area even when hatches, windows, portholes and doors are closed. Avoid anchoring in areas where your boat’s exhaust outlets could become blocked.

Backdrafting, sometimes called the station wagon effect, occurs when a boat operates at a high bow angle, travels under four knots, or has been improperly loaded. This causes carbon monoxide to accumulate inside the cabin, cockpit and bridge even when protective coverings are used and the boat is under way.

People teak surfing off the swim platform or water-skiing 20 feet or closer to the boat will inhale carbon monoxide exhaust, putting them at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

By learning how to avoid carbon monoxide exposure and educating others about the dangers, you can help save lives. U.S. Coast Guard



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