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Old     (fly135)      Join Date: Jun 2004       08-25-2004, 6:53 AM Reply   
There's an article on boating that appeared in the LA Times today. I got this from a post on a Usenet waterski group. I reposted the whole thing because you have to register to read the article. I just put this here to raise awareness. You can decide for yourself as if the warning is overblown or not. I've been skiing for over 25 years and never had a problem but I always have the boat turned off when I getting back in from a run.

Stern alert

Dragging behind a boat or even hanging out near exhaust puts boaters at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning. Some blame engine design and lack of warning labels, but others point to operator error.,1,7019604.story?coll=la-headlines-outdoors

By Charles Duhigg
Times Staff Writer

The air that killed Mark Tostado on Labor Day weekend was calm and hot, the product of the sunny days that draw boaters year-round to Lake Havasu, on the California-Arizona line.

Tostado, 31, a Huntington Beach personal fitness trainer and military veteran, had waded into the lake's shallow Bridgewater Channel last year to say goodbye to a woman standing behind two idling boats. She playfully stole his hat and turned away. When she looked back less than a minute later, Tostado was gone. His body was found the next day.

An autopsy revealed that Tostado's blood was 40.7% saturated with carbon monoxide, a colorless and odorless gas released as engines burn gasoline. Tostado presumably breathed a pocket of exhaust from nearby boats, passed out and drowned.

A spate of such deaths, more than 100 nationwide since 1990, prompted the California Assembly to recently pass a bill that would force boat sellers to put carbon monoxide warning labels on vessels and outlaw boaters from standing or hanging onto swim platforms attached to the stern while an engine is running. The state Senate passed the
legislation Monday.

But the families of carbon monoxide victims, legislators and physicians want boat makers and the Coast Guard, which regulates boat and marine engine design, to do more. They say improved marine engines and an aggressive public-awareness campaign about carbon monoxide dangers will help save lives.

In addition to the 111 confirmed deaths from carbon monoxide, independent and government scientists say that boat exhaust may be a factor in 40% of all drownings near boats, as many as 200 per year. The data are uncertain because many drowning victims never get tested for carbon monoxide poisoning.

"We solved this problem with cars," said Dr. Robert Baron, medical director of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in Arizona. "If five or 10 years ago boat manufacturers had put efforts into research, these people would still be alive."

Boat and engine manufacturers say that it's time-consuming and costly to develop new engines, and that boaters behave irresponsibly.

They point to "teak surfing," in which swimmers hang off the swim platform. In May 2003, teak surfer Anthony Farr, 11, inhaled carbon monoxide from a boat's exhaust pipes under the platform, passed out and drowned in Folsom Lake near Sacramento.

"The issue is the stupidity of people who let their kids hang around the business end of a boat," said Larry Meddock, director of the Water
Sports Industry Assn. "If this was a crisis, the Coast Guard would be responding differently. They haven't issued any regulations on this issue."

Platform dangers

Researchers from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health say carbon monoxide poisoning fatalities began increasing in the 1970s when boats were equipped with swim platforms. Scientists estimate that three inhalations of carbon monoxide-rich air can cause death.

"When I was growing up, there were no swim platforms, just ladders on the sides of boats," said Tom McAlpine, an Alabama lawyer who
represented the estate of a child who died of carbon monoxide poisoning after hanging onto the swim platform of an idling boat.

As part of a settlement, manufacturer Correct Craft began adding carbon monoxide warnings to its boats in the late '90s. The 2-by-4-inch sticker reads, in part, "Stay off and keep away from
boarding platform while engine is running."

Meanwhile, the company and another major boat maker, MasterCraft, sell showering attachments that many users operate while standing on the
swim platform. According to boat dealers, the engine must be running to provide a steady stream of hot water for the shower.

"One of their own designs forces people to stand in an exposure area. It doesn't make any sense," said Jane McCammon, a researcher for the
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Correct Craft executives and the company's chief engineer, Bill Snook, declined to answer questions regarding the shower units. A MasterCraft
representative said its owners' manuals and decals warn against standing on the swim platform while the engine is running.

Weak warnings?

Boat industry critics, including physician Baron, attorney McAlpine and researchers from the national Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, which, in a 2000 report, recommended removal of swim platforms, say the manufacturers' current sticker warnings are insufficient.

Studies by the Coast Guard and other government agencies show that carbon monoxide poisoning can occur inside boats, particularly in back seats.

"CO levels in the stern [back] seat of a ski boat are high enough to be cause for concern," one study reads. "CO levels at 20 feet behind the towed boat are high enough to affect towed tubers who tend to be young children."

In a 1997 incident, a 13-year-old girl lay on the back seat of an open-air powerboat as it headed to an Arizona lakeshore. Fifteen minutes later, when the boat docked, she was dead of carbon monoxide
poisoning, according to the examining physician.

The American Boat and Yacht Council recommends that stickers on boats include warnings to not "occupy aft lounging areas when engine[s] or
generator[s] is running." Stickers by MasterCraft and Correct Craft contain no such warnings about back-seat risks.

"The boat companies encourage people to sit back there by putting in seats and drink holders," said Teresa Stark, chief of staff to California Assemblyman Paul Koretz (D-West Hollywood), who introduced the bill that would require boats sold in California to carry large warning stickers. The measure would also prohibit boaters from occupying, hanging onto or bodysurfing behind swim platforms while a boat was operating. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has not stated his position on the bill, but Stark expects him to sign it into law when it reaches his desk.

Boat manufacturers maintain that operator error, not boat design, results in carbon monoxide poisoning.

"There is virtually no risk of carbon monoxide poisoning" when boaters comply with state and Coast Guard regulations, Snook, Correct Craft's
chief engineer, said in an e-mail.

"It's not my fault you've got parents who stick their kid behind an exhaust pipe," said Rick Lee, president of Fineline Industries, a powerboat manufacturer. "Why weren't these kids wearing life jackets? For over 80 years, society has been smart enough to not breathe in stinky exhaust."

But Glenn Palmer, a 20-year Phoenix paramedic trained in carbon monoxide detection, says he had no clue when refueling his boat in November that he was inhaling the odorless gas. The refueling
mechanism required a running engine.

"There was no smell of exhaust or fumes, no lightheadedness, nothing," Palmer said. "I was standing there talking to my wife for about five
minutes, when she said my eyes rolled up in mid-sentence and bam, I was out. It hit me so fast, if I had fallen in the water, I would have
had no chance."

New controls

In the 1960s and 1970s, Congress addressed concerns over carbon monoxide emissions from automobiles by passing laws that required car
manufacturers, but not boat makers, to decrease emissions.

Relatives of carbon monoxide victims say manufacturers have had decades to develop cleaner engines. Use of catalytic converters - a honeycomb filter that transforms carbon monoxide into safer gases - would essentially eliminate the emissions, they say. Boat exhaust contains 188 times more carbon monoxide than the average emission from
an automobile.

But marine engine experts say the automotive solution won't work in water.

"Catalysts and water don't mix," said Dick Rowe, founder and chief executive of Indmar Products, a major marine engine manufacturer. "When you put an engine in the water, everything changes."

By 2008, however, the California Air Resources Board will effectively require new boat engines to incorporate catalytic converters. To establish the standard, it hired the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio to equip four marine engines with catalytic converters. The project took four years and cost $1 million, according to chief engineer James Carroll, and the engines have successfully performed in freshwater lakes for more than 400 hours.

Regulators, including Andrew Spencer, an air pollution specialist at the Air Resources Board, say manufacturers could have produced safer
engines more than a decade ago if they had made them a priority.

Manufacturers say they expect to surmount the technological challenges before 2008, but until then, consumers will dictate their agenda.

"Why haven't we solved carbon monoxide?" asked Rowe of Indmar. "Because there are other research priorities that are rewarded more by consumers. We're not sure we know how to market a catalytic
converter-equipped boat. We are a small company. We can't afford to spend money on research consumers won't appreciate."

Critics also blame the Coast Guard for insufficiently policing the industry. The guard has no regulations related to carbon monoxide.

"How can the Coast Guard know this is happening and not require warnings?" asked Mike Farr, father of the boy who died while teak surfing on Folsom Lake near Sacramento. "How come there are no
regulations from the Coast Guard about boat design to keep people away from the backs of boats?"

The Coast Guard's specialist on carbon monoxide emissions defends the agency's approach, noting that it sponsors media campaigns and workshops about the dangers of the gas.

"We have raised the issue of requiring warning labels at our workshops, but the manufacturers have blocked that proposal," said Richard Blackman, an engineer in the Coast Guard's Office of Boating Safety. "I'm not sure it's worth the investment."

Blackman said the Coast Guard is reluctant to issue regulations that will meet industry resistance. "The Coast Guard says if industry can
regulate themselves, then it's in the best interest of everyone for companies to choose what should be done," he said.

Meanwhile, many boaters blame adults and fate for carbon monoxide deaths. "I would never let a kid hang off the back of a boat without a life jacket," Charlie Hardke, 32, said as he drove his powerboat around Folsom Lake. "But if there are toxic levels of carbon monoxide, I'd like to know."

One of Hardke's passengers, Robyn Westlake, a physician specializing in internal medicine, floated in the water near the back of the boat.

"I don't think it is any worse than the freeway, is it?" she asked.

On a day set aside for water play, victims often do not realize air quality is hazardous until it's too late. Charles Duhigg is a Times staff writer. He can be reached at
Old     (wakeguru)      Join Date: Feb 2003       08-25-2004, 9:34 AM Reply   
Great article John. They looked at the issue from all angles it seems, but the tone from the manufacturers didn't help our case IMO.
A couple things I noted were that the California bill they're trying to pass would prohibit "occupying" or "hanging" off of the swim platform while running BUT, also prohibited "bodysurfing behind the swim platform". This could translate into wakesurfing.
Second, the study referenced about levels of CO at 20 feet behind the boat that could affect someone being pulled seemed questionable.
Third, people need to understand how wind can play a role. Calm days are obviously more dangerous with regards to CO poisoning.
And Fourth, is Indmar really a "small company"?
Old     (fly135)      Join Date: Jun 2004       08-25-2004, 10:54 AM Reply   
The CDC researchers recommending the removal of swim platforms was particularly troublesome. I view the swim platform as a providing some separation between the person getting back in the boat and the propeller. IMO, whatever negative is caused by CO2 is made up by this safety benefit.

The bottom line is that people need to be informed and then deal with the safety issues themselves. It's pretty bizarre to think that people are keeling over from sitting in the back seat. Also I wonder about the accuracy those anecdotal reports.

I know that people seem to like leaving the boat running. There was a previous thread that indicated a strong resistance to turning off the boat when people are getting in from boarding. I never do it because of the danger that the driver may accidentally put it in gear, and because I don't like breathing exhaust fumes. The CO2 issue never came up but this report does indicates that it is a major safety issue.
Old     (rock_n_boardin)      Join Date: May 2003       08-25-2004, 1:44 PM Reply   
Interesting article. Maybe a little to much on the doom and gloom. Almost makes you feel scared to have someone sit in your back seat. Crazy. Out of the millions of people that sit in back seats of boats every year they can refer to one death. That fact became a big part of their story?

Hey there is risk in everything. Yeah if a million factors lined up perfectly I could see someone dying in the back seat of a boat from CO2. Like, terribly tuned engine, idling slowly, wind from the back, moon and the sun perfectly aligned, small child, maybe facing backwards or even hanging over the stern slightly. You get the point. Odds are about like winning the lottery. But either way my 7 year old daughter always sits on the observers seat when she is in our boat and we are moving.

I DO think a transom sticker was a good idea. It just opens your mind up. In my old Ski Centurion sometimes people would sit on the swim step while we idled through 5mph zones to take care of thier "business". Esepecially at the Delta where there are long stretchs of 5MPH zones. Since I became more aware of CO2 danger we don't do it anymore and most the time I shut the engine down when someone is getting in the boat. When I am the rider I hold my breath as I get in if it's running.
Old     (rock_n_boardin)      Join Date: May 2003       08-25-2004, 1:57 PM Reply   
The one thing that people need to get in there mind is that you can die from CO2 poisoning with or without a life vest! In the case of the kid at Folsom Lake he had enough CO2 in him to kill 2 or 3 times over. Some people think that you get knocked out from the CO2 and then drown. As the article states, 3 deep breaths of it in a concentrated amount like what comes out directly behind the boat exhaust is enough to kill you!!! The life vest jsut helps you find the body quicker!!

(Message edited by rock_n_boardin on August 25, 2004)
Old     (whit)      Join Date: Feb 2001       08-25-2004, 2:47 PM Reply   
Has anyone ever checked for themselves with a CO2 meter what the levels are behind a boat? Some of the statements seem to be kind of open ended. For example--boat emissions are 181 times a car. What kind of boat? An outboard, a ski boat, a wakeboard boat, a yacht?

Hand held CO2 meters are between $200 and $300. Sure would be nice to see some imperical data from people that are in it for the sport not a lawsuit.
Old     (fly135)      Join Date: Jun 2004       08-25-2004, 7:36 PM Reply   
I just noticed that I've been refering to Carbon Monoxide as CO2 and it's CO. Apparently CO replaces oxygen in the bloodstream so it's not necessarily just a simple matter of getting fresh air if you've got enough of it in you.
Old     (talltigeguy)      Join Date: Sep 2003       08-25-2004, 9:01 PM Reply   
Thanks for the post, John.

I agree with what's said above as far as the doom and gloom, you'd think people were dying left and right. 200 deaths in the millions and millions of hours people participate in this activity is very small.

To be more precise, the carbon monoxide binds to the oxygen site on the hemoglobin and doesn't let go. You die from lack of oxygen. Carbon Dioxide is relatively harmless - it's what our body makes and we breathe it out.
Old     (talltigeguy)      Join Date: Sep 2003       08-25-2004, 9:03 PM Reply   
In addition, the back seat comments are stupid. I'd like to see data on that.

The comments on removing the swim step are ludicrous as well. Then I could be even closer to the exhaust ports when I'm back there!
Old     (boarditup)      Join Date: Jan 2004       08-26-2004, 7:20 AM Reply   
This has been batted around for over a decade. I will try it tonight and see what I find. I have a meter in my office. This will not be a real quantifiable study, just one bit of data that may or may not be significant.

Reading the article above, you would assume that this incident was happening every day. However, it is rare. As a USCG Investigating Officer on active duty for 5 years, and an additional 3 in the active reserves, I never had such an incident reported to me. Keep in mind, I was mainly responsible for commercial incidents, but assisted on many non-commercial incidents as well. I will say this, looking at all of the incidents I know of, all have human error. I have not yet seen one that indicates a design problem with the engine or boat. However, I have not seen the complete investigative file on any of them.
Old     (jayman1)      Join Date: May 2002       08-26-2004, 7:29 AM Reply   
This article is good, but we have to ask ourselves why it is good.

The reason it is good because it raises awareness that this poisonous gas 'can' kill you. But people please...when are we going to start taking responsibility for ourselves? Of all the people that have died, how many have had life jackets on? Wearing a life jacket is not a guarantee that you are going to live but I can guarantee that you have a better chance of surviving and a better chance of being found with a jacket on(not like the guy noted in the article being found a day later).

Another note I found interesting in the article was the testing by Southwest Research Institute out of San Antonio being done on the new boat engines to have catalytic converters. I am an employee of this company and thought it was cool that they were doing the testing.
Old    tribal            08-26-2004, 8:36 AM Reply   
"Catalysts and water don't mix," said Dick Rowe, founder and chief executive of Indmar Products, a major marine engine manufacturer. "When you put an engine in the water, everything changes."

What a pile of bull.With above water exhaust tell me how this could be even remotely different from a car[not that I think below water exhaust would make a difference either].

Talltigeguy wrote In addition, the back seat comments are stupid. I'd like to see data on that

Look back a couple month's in the posts there was a pic from a study with the CO coloured red and yes the back passengers were very exposed[DD]

I agree we don't need people to protect us from ourselves but this is a classic case of profit before conscience.
Old     (michale)      Join Date: May 2004       08-26-2004, 8:47 AM Reply   
this is it here .osha did tests after teak surfing deaths.

pdf file,it takes some time to load.if you do not have a program to open pdf files go here.
Old     (fly135)      Join Date: Jun 2004       08-26-2004, 9:07 AM Reply   
Sean, it's not a "pile of bull". All the fresh water inboards I know of dispose of the cooling water through the exhaust. Which makes it significantly different than a car.
Old     (rock_n_boardin)      Join Date: May 2003       08-26-2004, 9:32 AM Reply   
"Look back a couple month's in the posts there was a pic from a study with the CO coloured red and yes the back passengers were very exposed[DD]"

But they can only come up with one death out of millions and millions of hours of people being exposed sitting back there.

A better study would be to check the blood for CO of people in many many many different conditions and exposure times to see if they have any and if so how much CO in their blood. Not just a one time picture of red colored gas.

"The comments on removing the swim step are ludicrous as well. Then I could be even closer to the exhaust ports when I'm back there!"

Bingo and a great point, but as usual they probably will not consider that and will act to make the situation worse!

Old     (jklein)      Join Date: May 2001       08-26-2004, 9:33 AM Reply   
Of the 111 deaths attributed to CO since 1990, how many were wearing life jackets. I'm sure they have that data but it was not presented.

To quote a paramedic from the Sacramento area who's worked around the lakes and rivers for over 20 years, "I've never pulled a dead person from a local waterway who drowned wearing a life jacket."

While concentrations of CO in the bloodstream are enough to kill (2 to 3 times enough in the case of the child in Folsom), it's also a well known fact that the body can recover when removed from the CO source and returned to fresh air quickly. I'm not saying that boy would have survived, but if he had been wearing a life jacket, there would have been a chance. Teak surfing is just bad news all the way around. Laying your torso right over the exhaust just lets those fumes come right up in your face. This is epecially true on swimsteps that have slots in them.

It would be interesting to see a water / gas separator as part of a muffler system that allows the gas to float up through another chamber where it's passed through a catalytic converter before it leaves the boat. That would keep the cat dry while the disposed cooling water could still pass.
Old    tribal            08-26-2004, 9:52 AM Reply   
John Anderson yeah I didn't think about the exhaust manifold water but do you really think it would be that hard to isolate and dump seperate if the exhaust was going through a catalytic converter.
And once again I'm not asking for any legislation or anybody to protect us but untill you guy's stand up and say something the status quo will continue.
Old     (rock_n_boardin)      Join Date: May 2003       08-26-2004, 9:56 AM Reply   
Don't get me wrong I'm not condoning NOT wearing a life jacket when doing water sports behind a boat. I just want to make sure people know you can die teak surfing with or without a lifevest from CO poisioning.

In the case of the Havasu drowning, the guy was just hanging out in a couple feet of water on the shore near "behind" several running boats. I would say 100% of adults would not wear a lifevest in that situation and yes it took a day to find the body.
Old     (wakeguru)      Join Date: Feb 2003       08-26-2004, 10:16 AM Reply   
It was 111 fatal and non-fatal poisonings in and around Lake Powell and the majority were contributed to house boat generators so a life jacket wasn't really a factor in most of those poisonings. A very small percentage were the result of people hanging off the swim platform while the boat was running and those 3 people were revived if I read correctly.

There is a risk and people need to know that, but not one that requires legislation in my opinion. In most states it is already illegal to be anywhere but "inside" the boat while it is underway. That doesn't include those who are getting in and out using the swim platform while the boat is sitting still and running, but that is where the numerous warning stickers serve their purpose. We've all been guilty of this at one point I'm sure, but we need to make it a priority to shut the boat down when people are back there. Besides, it saves gas and hours on your boat.

It's good to bring this topic back every now and again to remind people.
Education not legislation please!
Old     (jayman1)      Join Date: May 2002       08-26-2004, 10:36 AM Reply   
I agree with the wakeguru in the previous post. He summarizes very well and makes a good point about shutting off the engine while swimming behind the boat or changing riders. It's not just good practice but policy on my boat to kill the motor when switching riders and/or swimming near the swimdeck no matter who is driving.

I saved a link to a website that I found in a wakesurfing post a while back. It is a good source for educating people about wakesurfing and how it differs from teaksurfing.

Education is the key.
Old     (fly135)      Join Date: Jun 2004       08-26-2004, 10:50 AM Reply   
Sean, I really don't want a catalytic convertor on my boat just because a few people die of CO poisoning. I've been using these boats for over 25 years without anything that resembles an incident of CO poisoning. I concur with the education and warning sticker approach.

Actually my kids used to want to hang on the platform and I would never let them because of gas fumes. I didn't think it was healthy. Now I have an even better reason to say no. If my boat had a sticker about CO then it would have been easy to point to it as the reason.
Old     (jklein)      Join Date: May 2001       08-26-2004, 1:24 PM Reply   
I agree that education, not legislation is the correct route for now. However, I would like to see some government incentives to manufacturers for R&D into new technology. There's no point in stopping innovation. If the problem can be solved in a non-hassle factor, cost effective, no loss of performance way, then why oppose it.

If 108 of the incidents were houseboat related, then the article is barking up the wrong tree. Regarding life jackets, there's always going to be the odd-ball case like the guy who was standing in shallow water. I just don't want them to outlaw wakesurfing cause they don't know the difference between that and teak surfing.


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