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.