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Article :: Carbon Monoxide
Carbon Monoxide
According the Journal of the American Medical Association, Carbon Monoxide is the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in America. Boaters are only a small percentage of these, but much remains to be done to reduce the approximately 1,500 deaths (and 10,000 seeking medical attention) per year in the U.S.

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, toxic gas produced during the incomplete combustion of fuel, including gasoline, diesel, propane, CNG, charcoal, kerosene, wood, etc. It is a common misconception that diesel engines do not produce CO. Virtually any incomplete combustion process can produce CO. This includes heating and cooking appliances. Charcoal is one of the highest CO producing cooking fuels.

The danger from CO is that it attaches to hemoglobin and replaces oxygen in our blood. It is poisonous to all warm blooded animals. CO poisoning symptoms include shortness of breath, headaches, nausea, dizziness, confusion, fainting, coughing, watering eyes and at higher levels can lead to fainting and death. CO poisoning symptoms greatly resemble sea sickness making it easy to mis-diagnose while aboard a vessel. Children, the elderly and persons with respiratory problems or cardiovascular illnesses are more susceptible. First aid should include breathing fresh air immediately, followed by medical attention.

There are two steps which all boaters should do to prevent CO poisoning. Purchase and install CO alarm(s) and service all the devices which can produce CO regularly to assure they are properly functional and installed correctly.

My reports recommend installation of a CO monitor on all vessels with enclosed living areas.