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Bill would require CO detectors on engine-powered boats

Michael Kearns

Many people might not think about carbon monoxide dangers aboard boats. But State Assemblyman Michael Kearns is proposing a law that he believes will protect the safety of those who enjoy the water.

If the Legislature approves the bill, all engine-powered boats in New York would be required to have carbon monoxide detectors. The devices alert passengers of toxic build-up inside boat cabins, cockpits, or beneath swimming platforms.

Carbon monoxide is known to be an extremely dangerous gas, causing death and other health risks.

“When you’re the captain of the boat, I know this: you’re responsible for the safety of your passengers. It’s a small thing, it’s a small cost but unfortunately it could be a huge risk. Someone could die from exposure to CO,” said Kearns.

The Buffalo Democrat noted that the detectors are similar to devices that many people put inside their homes.

Kearns added that many individuals are unaware of the dangers of carbon monoxide while boating, mistakenly believing that they're safe because they’re out in open water.

“It’s misinterpreted as seasickness, and you only need a low concentration of this over a long period of time," he said. "CO on a boat can be just as deadly."

Kearns said his proposed law was inspired by the death of 16-year-old Amanda Hansen who died of carbon monoxide poisoning while sleeping at a friend’s house in 2009.

The lawmaker said he understands that boaters might  feel like the legislation is overstepping the state's bounds. Still, Kearns believes the plan will be embraced by boaters, just as previous regulations were embraced.

“Personal flotation devices, life preservers, they weren’t always standard in boats. But now when you go on a boat. everyone wears one," said Kearns. "I think now this is just an additional thing. I think people, once they know, they won’t want to take that risk of somebody dying on their boat.”

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