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CARBON MONOXIDE

Carbon Monoxide (CO) Dangers in Boating

In August 2000, the National Park Service, through the Department of the Interior, requested assistance from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the U.S. Coast Guard to evaluate visitor and employee carbon monoxide (CO) exposures from generators and propulsion engines on houseboats. This initial investigation characterized CO poisonings through epidemiologic data gathering and the measurement of severely hazardous CO concentrations on houseboats at Lake Powell. Since that initial investigation, over 800 boating-related poisonings in 35 states have been identified with over 140 of these poisonings resulting in death. Over 300 of the poisonings occurred on houseboats, with more than 200 of these poisonings attributed to generator exhaust alone.

Carbon Monoxide

Facts You Should Know about CO

  1. CO cannot be seen or smelled, but it can kill you or make you sick.
  2. Know the symptoms of CO poisoning:
    • Headache
    • Confusion
    • Fatigue
    • Seizures
    • Dizziness or loss of consciousness
    • Nausea
  3. Get to fresh air and seek medical help immediately if you or a family member has these symptoms!
  4. Install and test daily a battery operated CO detector.
  5. CO from engine exhaust builds up inside and outside the boat in areas near exhaust vents. Stay away and do not swim near these areas while propulsion engines or generator are running.
  6. Schedule regular engine and exhaust system maintenance inspections by experienced and trained technicians.
  7. Be aware that dangerous concentrations of CO can accumulate within seconds.
  8. All CO poisonings are preventable!

Initial investigations conducted by NIOSH industrial hygienists and engineers showed very high concentrations of CO on and around houseboats using gasoline-powered generators. Following these investigations, NIOSH worked with major houseboat and generator manufacturers to evaluate novel engineering controls to reduce CO concentrations in occupied areas on houseboats. This work led to collaborations with external partners to evaluate new engineering technologies designed to reduce CO poisonings on many other types of recreational boats (including ski boats and express cruisers). Since the start of this project, new catalyst-based low CO emission generators and stern-drive engines have been developed by manufacturers to help address this issue. This work has been conducted since 2002 under a continuing Interagency agreement with the U.S. Coast Guard.

This work has been supported by the following partners

  • National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA)
  • Forever Resorts LLC
  • Sumerset Houseboats
  • Westerbeke Corporation
  • Indmar Marine Engines Inc.
  • Ancon Marine Consultants
  • Kohler Power Systems
  • National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA)
  • American Boat Yacht Council (ABYC)
  • Mercury Marine
  • Water Sports Industry Association (WSIA)

The reports listed below on this page include: 1) Health Hazard Evaluations which document hazardous environments on and around houseboats, 2) Engineering Control Technology Reports which report on the evaluation of engineering controls which have been developed to mitigate boat-related CO poisonings, and 3) National Case Listing of (CO) poisonings and deaths reported by state. Additional studies have been conducted to characterize the environments surrounding other recreational boats including bass boats, ski boats, personal watercraft and express cruisers. This page will continue to evolve as work is continuing to evaluate and address hazards associated with CO on other houseboats and recreational boats.

Health Hazard Evaluations

Carbon monoxide exposures during rescue operations using personal watercraft - Florida (January 2012)
HETA No. 2008-0014-3151

Final Report Glen Canyon National Recreation Area: A comprehensive report of the interagency project activity involving Glen Canyon (January 2005)
HETA No. 2000-400-2956, 2002-0325-2956 (January 2005)

Exhaust stack evaluation: An evaluation of two exhaust stack configurations on Table Rock Lake
HETA No. 2003-0318-2936 (June 2004)

Reports on CO Exposures at Lake Havasu , AZ
HETA No. 2002-0393-2928 (February 2004)

CO concentrations on boats in the Raft-Off Event at Lake Norman , NC July 27, 2002
HETA No. 2002-0340 (April 2005)

Evaluation of houseboat generator exhaust at Lake Mead
HETA No. 2001-0100 (April 2001)

Evaluation of houseboat generator exhaust at Lake Mead on
HETA No. 2001-0100 (April 2001)

CO investigation on houseboats at Lake Cumberland , KY
HETA No. 2001-0026 (December 2000)

NIOSH Engineering Reports

Houseboats

Follow Up Evaluation of Kohler Low Emission Technology to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisonings from Houseboat Generator Exhaust
EPHB No. 289-14a (June 2011)

An Evaluation of Catalytic Emission Controls to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisonings from Houseboat Generator Exhaust, November 28-19, 2006
EPHB No. 171-05vv (March 2007)

An Evaluation of Catalytic Emission Controls to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisonings From Houseboat Generator Exhaust, Callville Bay Marina, Boulder City, Nevada
EPHB No. 171-38a (October 2006)

An Evaluation of Catalytic Emission Controls and Vertical Exhaust Stacks to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisonings from Houseboat Generator Exhaust
EPHB No. 171-36a (September 2000)

Houseboat generator exhaust stack performance evaluation:  An evaluation of factors that might influence exhaust stack performance to prevent CO poisonings from houseboat generator exhaust
EPHB No. 171-34a1 (January 2004)

Follow-up evaluation of houseboat generator exhaust stack system changes
EPHB No. 171-34a2 (July 2004)

An evaluation of houseboat generator exhaust controls. Houseboat generator vertical exhaust stack and aged emission control devices evaluations
EPHB No. 171-32a (October 2003)PDF

Evaluation of Side Exhaust and Prototype and Production Emission Control Devices to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisonings on Houseboats. Text of NIOSH technical report on Emission Control Devices
EPHB No. 171-29a (May 2002)

Report evaluating the effectiveness of exhaust stack on Fun Country Marine, Inc. houseboats on Lake Mead
EPHB No. 171-28a (August 2001)

Evaluation of Generator Emission Control Device and Interlock Device
EPHB No. 171-27a (August 2001)

Report on
EPHB No. 171-26a (May 2001)

Report on
EPHB No. 171-25a (March 2001)

Ski Boats

An Evaluation of Carbon Monoxide Concentration With and Without Catalytic Emission Controls From Gasoline Propulsion Engines, Punta Gorda, Florida
EPHB No. 289-12a (April 2007)

Evaluation of the Sideswipeâ„¢ Exhaust System to Reduce Carbon Monoxide Exposure during Motor Boating and Wake Surfing
EPHB No. 171-37a (December 2005)

Evaluation of
EPHB No. 171-35a (August 2004)

CO on recreational boats: CO emissions and exposures on 16 Recreational Boats under Various Operating Conditions at Lake Norman , NC
EPHB No. 171-31a (April 2003)

CO on recreational boats: Carbon monoxide emissions and exposures on various recreational boats other than houseboats at Lake Powell and Lake Mead
EPHB No. 171-05ee2 (February 2003

Express Cruisers

In-Depth Survey Report of Carbon Monoxide Emissions and Exposures on Express Cruisers Under Various Operating Conditions, Florida, North Carolina and New Jersey
EPHB No. 289-11a (January 2006)

CO on recreational boats: CO emissions and exposures on 16 Recreational Boats under Various Operating Conditions at Lake Norman , NC
EPHB No. 171-31a (April 2003)

CO on recreational boats: Carbon monoxide emissions and exposures on various recreational boats other than houseboats at Lake Powell and Lake Mead
EPHB No. 171-05ee2 (February 2003)

Other Resources

An evaluation of conditions that may affect the performance of houseboat exhaust stacks in prevention of carbon monoxide poisonings from generators
J Occup Environ Hyg 2006 Jun; 3(6):308-316

Evaluation of carbon monoxide emissions from engines on recreational boats equipped with prototype catalysts
J Occup Environ Hyg 2006 Feb; 3(2):D4-D7

Carbon monoxide emissions from marine outboard engines
Society of Automotive Engineers Technical Papers No. 2004-32-0011.
Washington, DC: Society of Automotive Engineers, 2004 Nov; :1-11

Carbon monoxide and houseboats: an evaluation of a stack exhaust system to reduce poisonings associated with generator exhaust
Prof Saf 2003 Nov; 48(11):47-57

An Evaluation of an Engineering Control to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisonings of Individuals On and Around Houseboats
American Industrial Hygiene Association Journal 2002 May/Jun; 63(3):361-369

National Case Listing of Carbon Monoxide Poisonings in Boating
Carbon Monoxide Hazards from Small Gasoline Powered Engines (Topic Page)

CDC Enviromental Hazards & Health Effects Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
On this page you can find reports detailing how carbon monoxide can be produced by portable generators, motorboats, fires, and other emissions.

Contacts

Alberto Garcia M.S.
Mechanical Engineer
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
4676 Columbia Parkway MS R-5
Cincinnati, OH 45226
Phone: (513) 841-4596
Fax: (513) 841-4506
Email: agarcia1@cdc.gov

Kevin H. Dunn M.S., C.I.H.
Mechanical Engineer
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
4676 Columbia Parkway MS R-5
Cincinnati, OH 45226
Phone: (513) 841-4152
Fax: (513) 841-4506
Email: kdunn@cdc.gov

 
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  • Page last reviewed: August 16, 2013
  • Page last updated: August 16, 2013
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