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Doctors sound alarm on perils of
boat exhaust poisoning

August 16, 2006

The recent near drowning of three people in Arizona demonstrated the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning for boaters and swimmers.

Two women swimmers suffered from exhaust at Lake Pleasant and a third victim was reported at Saguaro Lake, all last month.

"This time of the year you get a spike in cases," said Dr. Michael Christopher, chief of staff at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center. "Lake Pleasant and Lake Powell are the hot spots in the nation because of so much boating."

Christopher and other officials participated in a recent event to highlight the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning and drunken driving on water sports.

Carbon monoxide is insidious because it's odorless and colorless, Christopher said. Besides death, symptoms include, mild flulike symptoms, nausea, vomiting, uneasiness and seizures, he said.

Christopher said houseboats are notorious for venting the deadly fumes beneath the swim platform. However, the houseboat industry now recognizes the need for redesign, he said.

Another popular practice is what is known as teaking, where a swimmer would hang onto the back of a moving boat and then let go and ride the boat's wake, Christopher said.

The new sport is much like surfing behind your car and inhaling the lethal gas, said Dr. Rebecca Hsu, an independent forensic pathologist.

Hsu said carbon monoxide poisoning can mimic intoxication and that young children and adults who smoke or have disorders such as heart or lung problems are more susceptible.
Reproduced with permission from:
The Arizona Republic
By Cecilia Chan
Copyright 2007 Arizona Republic

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