Carbon Monoxide Injuries and Boats: A Hidden Danger
When we hear about carbon monoxide poisoning, people are in an enclosed space, like a home or business. But it is also possible to succumb to the colorless, odorless gas when outdoors, such as when you’re on a boat. Every summer, there are numerous reports of carbon monoxide poisoning on boats, in part because it’s neither expected nor understood by many boat owners.
This is a serious problem, however, and the number of cases is increasing, to the point that the U.S. Coast Guard and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are trying to get the word out that homes and businesses are not the only places where carbon monoxide can serve as a threat.
The greatest risk comes if the boat is overcrowded, and people are sitting at the rear of the boat, where the danger of carbon monoxide exposure is greatest. According to experts, people should be discouraged from spending too much time near the motor.
Several years back, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NOISH) conducted an investigation into the risks of carbon monoxide gas on boats, and found at least 800 confirmed incidents in which boat passengers were subjected to carbon monoxide poisoning over a ten-year period. Those incidents resulted in at least 140 deaths. About 300 occurred on houseboats and more than two-thirds of those exposures came from fumes that came from generator exhaust. NIOSH investigators found that such generators can create a buildup of the gas both inside and outside the boat. The exhaust can also create a buildup of carbon monoxide from a nearby boat when docked.
It should be noted, however, that there may be more cases than NIOSH discovered. Currently, when there’s a boating accident or drowning, officials don’t usually test for carbon monoxide, so it can’t be known how many cases of carbon monoxide poisoning there actually were.
The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, nausea, light-headedness and some flu-like symptoms. Because these symptoms are common to other ailments, carbon monoxide poisoning is often misdiagnosed. On boats, the NIOSH study noted that, in a number of cases, someone with carbon monoxide poisoning was thought to just be seasick or suffering from alcohol intoxication. This type of misdiagnosis increases the potential risk, because quick treatment is essential, because exposure can leave the victim of poisoning with injuries and illness that can last a lifetime.
In many instances, carbon monoxide leaks on a boat may be caused by other people or companies, and may even be caused by a defective product design. The Hill Law Firm has represented many victims of Boat Accidents. If you or a loved one have become sick or died on a boat under mysterious circumstances, contact Hill Law Firm today for a free consultation.