Investigators finger houseboat exhaust as killer

PHOENIX (AP) - Carbon monoxide poisonings have caused nine deaths and 102 injuries at a lake straddling Arizona and Utah, leading investigators to fear houseboat exhaust may be sickening people across America.

Seven of the deaths and two-thirds of the poisonings on Lake Powell were associated with the exhaust from electric generators on privately owned houseboats, The Arizona Republic reported Wednesday.

Investigators found improbably high levels of the colorless, odorless and potentially deadly gas often gathering beneath the swimming deck of houseboats. Researchers call it the ''death zone.''

''The carbon monoxide concentrations are so high where you have your children playing, where you are watching them play,'' said Jane McCammon, a carbon monoxide expert with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Lake Powell is the first area to be extensively studied, but investigators are finding similar situations across the nation. They will next examine Lake Cumberland, Ky., where 15 people on two houseboats were hospitalized in August after they were overcome by carbon monoxide fumes.

The U.S. Coast Guard is studying the issue but doesn't know what to do about it, the Republic said. ''The builders of these boats are technically not in violation of any rules,'' said Randolph Jay Doubt, a Coast Guard engineer.

A Phoenix emergency-room doctor spotted the trend after an autopsy showed that two Colorado boys who supposedly drowned in Lake Powell this summer actually died from asphyxiation due to carbon monoxide exposure.


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