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Carbon Monoxide Boating Safety Stressed During Awareness Week

Contact:  Gloria Sandoval (916) 651-5692
cell (916) 715-1657

November 05, 2009

SACRAMENTO– The Department of Boating and Waterways (DBW) and the U.S. Coast Guard remind boaters to review safety procedures during Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week Nov. 9-15.

“Carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless and surprisingly a danger in open-air environments, such as boats,” said DBW Director Raynor Tsuneyoshi. “Regular maintenance, proper boat operation and safety awareness can reduce the risk of injury from this gas.”

Many boaters are aware that carbon monoxide is a danger in enclosed spaces when using on-board generators, heaters and stoves. But the gas can also accumulate in areas around and under a motorboat’s swim platform.

According to the World Health Organization, exposure to the gas at a level exceeding 87 parts per million (ppm) over a 15-minute interval is considered dangerous. Testing on late model ski boats has measured carbon monoxide levels ranging from 90-1,000 ppm. Boaters should avoid boat engine exhaust vent areas and not swim in these areas when the engine or generator is operating.

Additional ways to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide exposure in the boating environment:

  • If your boat has rear-vented generator exhaust, check with the boat manufacturer for possible recall or reroute the exhaust to a safe area.
  • Schedule regular engine and exhaust system maintenance inspections by experienced and trained technicians.
  • Keep forward-facing hatches open, even in inclement weather, to allow fresh air circulation in living spaces.
  • When possible, run the boat so that prevailing winds will help dissipate the exhaust.
  • Install a carbon monoxide detector in each accommodation space on your boat. Check detectors before each trip to be sure they are functioning properly.
Boaters are also reminded that “teak surfing” is dangerous and a violation of California law. This activity involves clinging to the swim platform or transom of an underway boat, then letting go and body surfing. Exposure to carbon monoxide from the boat’s engine can cause a teak surfer to faint and, if not wearing a life jacket, to drown.

The law prohibiting teak surfing went into effect Jan. 1, 2005 under the Anthony Farr and Stacey Beckett Boating Safety Act of 2004, which also requires that a set of carbon monoxide warning stickers be placed on the transom and helm of all new and used motorized boats sold in California. Decals are available through DBW.

Carbon monoxide is colorless, odorless, tasteless and mixes evenly with the air. It enters your bloodstream through the lungs and displaces the oxygen your body needs. Prolonged exposure to low concentrations or very short exposure to high concentrations can lead to death. In boating environments carbon monoxide poisoning is confused with seasickness, intoxication or heat stress. If someone on board complains of irritated eyes, headache, nausea, weakness or dizziness, immediately move the person to fresh air, investigate the cause and take corrective action. Seek medical attention, if necessary.

For a pamphlet about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning or to obtain a warning decal for boats, visit www.dbw.ca.gov.


DBW enhances public access to California’s waterways and promotes boating and aquatic safety through programs funded by vessel registration fees, boating fuel tax dollars and boating facility construction loan payments.