I was saddened to read of the death of a young woman as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning on Nacimiento Lake. As an attorney representing marine manufacturers for 33 years I know this is not an isolated incident.
CO is an odorless, tasteless poison gas that is produced by boat engines. Areas near the stern can have concentrations as high as 30,000 ppm. Exposure to this level can be immediately lethal.
Hemoglobin has a 300 times greater affinity for CO than it does for oxygen. Exposure to low levels for a prolonged period can result in hemoglobin unable to absorb oxygen. The result is asphyxiation.
Recreational boats have an array of equipment from stereos to refrigerators. Many operators run their engine while stationary to keep batteries charged. In light winds exhaust can enter the boat or adjoining boats. This is particularly dangerous when boats group together.
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When moving at slow speed or stationary be mindful of wind direction and speed. A following wind will bring CO aboard a slow-moving vessel.
Never allow people to occupy swim or boarding platforms while the engine is running. Do not allow people to body surf the wake.
If you suspect CO poisoning call 911, move the person to an area of fresh air and administer oxygen if available.
For information on how to avoid future tragedies, go to http://www.uscgboating.org/safety/carbon_monoxide.