Toxic Carbon Monoxide From Boats Can Kill You Just as Fast as Car Exhaust

Boating on the open waters is a very freeing and exhilarating experience. It seems like a safe and exciting hobby. However, it can also come with deadly consequences. Carbon monoxide poisoning can happen with any gas-powered vehicle, and a boat is no exception. Here are some little-known facts about the dangers of carbon monoxide from boats.

A white boat approaching a dock near a grassy area driven by a man with a blue shirt and white pants.
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21-year-old athlete drowns due to carbon monoxide

According to People, at 21 years of age and an athlete, Ally Sidloski was a strong and capable swimmer. However, she tragically drowned in a lake due to carbon monoxide from a boat. At first, her parents were baffled because she had always been a strong swimmer at home. A coroner later ruled that the cause of Sidloski’s death was not drowning, but carbon monoxide intoxication.

Sidloski’s parents have filed a lawsuit against Yamaha, the company that manufactured the boat. It is believed that she was sitting in an area on the boat deemed unfit for occupants due to the possibility of carbon monoxide exposure. The couple hopes to prevent this from happening to others in the future.

One of the biggest dangers of boating

According to U.S. Coast Guard, carbon monoxide poisoning is thought to be one of the leading causes of boating-related deaths each year. In 2020, the Coast Guard reported 15 boat-related carbon monoxide poisonings with five fatalities and 41 injuries. When boats are idling or at low speeds, the fumes build up around the exhaust vents. The gas can’t be seen or smelled, so victims are unaware of the danger. According to the CDC, carbon monoxide builds up in the air space beneath the stern deck or on and near the swim deck can kill someone in seconds.

Dangerous concentrations of carbon monoxide can build up within seconds, even in an outdoor setting such as a lake. The dangers of automobile exhaust in enclosed spaces are well-known to the public. Sadly, some people use this method to take their lives by leaving their car running in the garage with the door closed. However, not many people realize how dangerous carbon monoxide can be even in an open area outdoors.

What are the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning

Known as the “quiet killer,” carbon monoxide poisoning can occur very quickly, which is why it’s essential to recognize the symptoms. For mild exposure, a person might experience headaches, weakness, dizziness, or nausea. For a medium exposure, the person might feel shortness of breath, confusion, or blurred vision. For extreme exposure, loss of consciousness is possible. This is why recognizing the symptoms quickly can alert you to clear the area before you lose consciousness and succumb to the fumes.

People exposed to carbon dioxide for long durations could also suffer an irreversible brain injury. Because your body cannot transport oxygen to the cells, the brain may be oxygen-starved, which may lead to damage to the brain or any other organs. The process happens very quickly, so a fast response is necessary to prevent loss of life. 

Many people know how dangerous carbon monoxide is when inhaled, but few know of the dangers of boating and carbon monoxide poisoning. Since many boats and their onboard generators are gas-powered, it’s only logical that they would emit carbon dioxide and that it might pose a threat. Since boats are operated on water, it’s hard to believe that carbon dioxide could build up since most people think it only occurs in enclosed spaces.

Make no mistake, the same precautions used around car exhaust should also be taken with boat exhaust. 

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