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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: As the owner of a cabin cruiser on Lake Powell in Utah, and an occasional renter of houseboats, I have recently learned how easily I, or one of my passengers, could become a victim of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.

The level of CO found beneath some houseboats is so high it can kill a person after only a few breaths.

Swim ladder designs on some houseboat models create an air cavity beneath the stern deck. This space is a popular place for kids to go swimming. Many boats also vent the gasoline generator exhaust into this space, which has no outlet, allowing lethal levels of carbon monoxide to build up within a few minutes.

Sadly, since 1994, nine people have died, and since 1991, more than 100 have required emergency care -- all from CO poisoning at Lake Powell.

Abby, please warn readers about the dangers of houseboats. Houseboats are being recalled and refitted. Houseboat owners should contact their nearest U.S. Coast Guard station for more information. -- BOAT OWNER IN FLAGSTAFF, ARIZ.

DEAR BOAT OWNER: Your warning will be news to a lot of people -- it was to me -- and I hope it serves to alert individuals and families who vacation on or around rented houseboats.

The problem seems to be a design flaw in certain models of houseboats that allows carbon monoxide to collect beneath swim platforms or in the vicinity of the swim ladder near the back of the boat.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas. Exposure to it causes headaches, dizziness, fatigue, confusion and nausea. The symptoms can mimic those of seasickness. When breathed in high concentrations or for prolonged periods, it can cause convulsions, seizures and death. It is also the No. 1 cause of poisoning deaths in the United States. That's why proper ventilation when burning carbon fuel is a must.

DEAR ABBY: I am a 12-year-old about to turn 13. I don't remember all the details of a letter in your column that touched me, but I do know what it was about -- sniffing inhalants.

When I read that letter I knew it had to be God speaking to me. I was experimenting with inhalants -- and having problems such as depression and suicidal thoughts that were beginning to take over my life.

I looked at suicide as a way out. I had it all planned, but my cousin talked to me, sensed something was wrong, and I confided in her. I didn't think she'd squeal, but she did. At first I was mad that she'd wrecked my plan. Fortunately, I was put into "Teen Recovery" to work out some of my problems.

After five days I was out and on to a new and better life -- thanks to the world's best parents, cousins, grandparents and friends that a person could ever have.

I hope my letter today will encourage some other troubled boy or girl out there to reach out if they're in trouble. Just sign me ... PRE-TEEN WITH NEW HOPE

DEAR PRE-TEEN: I, too, hope your letter reassures other kids who are in trouble that they can get the help they need. Caring family and friends are the best support system in the world.

Dear Abby is written by Pauline Phillips and daughter Jeanne Phillips.

Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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