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Tips for boaters to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning

DES MOINES — Carbon monoxide poisoning is usually associated with winter, a faulty furnace or using a kerosene space heater indoors, but it can also be a summertime risk — while boating.

Susan Stocker, education coordinator for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, says boaters need to be aware of the situations that can put themselves and their passengers at risk of illness or even death.

“Carbon monoxide poisoning can happen if the boat is traveling at a slow speed or idling,” Stocker says, “and if anyone is near the exhaust and the back of the boat.”

Being exposed to the exhaust could cause a person to lose consciousness and drown. Stocker says the same applies to a tailwind, which may blow the exhaust fumes toward passengers.

“You’re going to want to make sure that anybody who’s around the boat, whether swimming or getting in and out, that the boat is shut off and that will, of course, eliminate the continuous fumes being around you,” Stocker says. “Definitely, you never want to hang on to the back of the swim platform.”

Stocker says she’s unaware of any boaters in Iowa succumbing to carbon monoxide poisoning in recent history, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened.

“The symptoms can often look like sun dehydration or seasickness,” she says. “It might be headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting. That may be why we haven’t had specific diagnosis and/or incidents with carbon monoxide poisoning here in Iowa.”

Stocker suggests all boaters install and maintain a marine carbon monoxide detector, put children in the forward-most seating on the boat, and maintain fresh air circulation at all times.


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