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Bill requiring carbon monoxide warning stickers on Oklahoma boats passes the House Public Safety Committee

Motor boats on the Lake of the Arbuckles
National Parks Service
Gasoline-powered boat engines and generators release carbon monoxide.

The Oklahoma House Public Safety Committee passed a bill requiring all boats purchased or operated in Oklahoma to prominently display a carbon monoxide warning sticker.

The bill is named after Andrew Free, a nine-year-old from Broken Arrow who died of carbon monoxide poison after a day of boating on Lake Eufaula in 2020.

Rep. Dean Davis (R-Broken Arrow), who authored House Bill 2010, or “Andy’s Law,” said Free’s death hit close to home.

I have nieces that are boaters, and they wake board, and we sit on the boat,” Davis said. “And so many of my friends and family just never had the realization that this was a danger.”

Gasoline-powered boat engines and generators release carbon monoxide. The colorless, odorless gas can build up in the boat’s cabin and around open-air swim decks at the back of the boat, especially on crafts that have been idling or moving at slow speeds.

A study commissioned by the U.S. Coast Guard identified more than 800 cases of carbon monoxide poisoning on boats between 1981 and 2008. Two of the country’s earliest recorded cases of boat-related carbon monoxide poisoning happened on Oklahoma’s Keystone Lake in 1984, resulting in the death of a twelve-year-old. In 2006, at least 20 people inhaled carbon monoxide while sleeping on a houseboat on Lake Texoma; all survived after receiving medical treatment.

The Public Safety Committee discussed the availability of carbon monoxide detectors for boats, but the bill does not require them.

“I just want to give a warning,” Davis said. “If you have a label that can give acknowledgment of this danger, people can see it every day and just look for the symptoms.”

Those symptoms can include nausea, dizziness, weakness and confusion.

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Graycen Wheeler is a reporter covering water issues at KOSU as a corps member with Report for America.
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