Sophia's Law

Boating Safety and Carbon Monoxide

Sophia's Law, July 2018, Cheryl Stetter,

Sophia's Law, July 2018, Cheryl Stetter,

On May 1, 2018 Sophia’s Law went into effect in the state of Minnesota.  While this law is an awesome step in carbon monoxide safety, the picture of little Sophia shows the immediacy with which more carbon monoxide legislation is needed.

Sophia Baechler

Sophia Baechler

Sophia’s Law will require any boat with an enclosed accommodation compartment to be equipped with a marine carbon monoxide detector, regardless of the size of the boat.  This enclosed compartment is defined as any boat with a designated sleeping area, a galley with a sink, and a bathroom compartment.

Additional regulations are also in place to ensure boater safety, such as the placement of warning labels and replacing older CO detectors. 

Most recreational boats do not have catalytic converters

catalytic converters reduce the amount of carbon monoxide exhausted from an engine

The requirements of Sophia’s Law are clearly written to show concern for boats with enclosed cabins and spaces. Some may argue, however, that warning labels and CO alarms for only some boats are not enough. 

16-year-old Raven Little-White died in August of 2016 from sitting at the back of a speed boat with an inboard motor.

In the state of Washington, a law was passed in 2006 known as the Jenda Jones and Denise Colbert Safe Boating Act. This law honors the victims who were exposed to CO by teak surfing or body surfing, or holding on to the back of the boat while in the water.  Denise Colbert was holding on to the boat’s rear platform and pulled to a nearby dock.  At 21 years old, Denise was overcome by carbon monoxide and silently slipped into the water.

Carbon monoxide

can accumulate anywhere in or around a boat.

Such accidents show the complexity of carbon monoxide safety in boating. Where should carbon monoxide alarms be placed, and will they be effective? Sophia's Law addresses types of CO detectors as well, and requires a Marine Carbon Monoxide Detector.

A marine carbon monoxide detector is designed to read some spikes in CO levels as common on a boat, but will not alarm until 70 ppm of CO is reached for a time-weighted average of 200 min. By comparison home CO detectors will provide an audible alarm at 70 ppm for 100 min.

Marine Carbon Monoxide Alarm Levels

Marine Carbon Monoxide Alarm Levels

Marine Alarms

Should be clearly labeled
Marine Carbon Monoxide Alarm

One problem that consumers may face is actually purchasing marine carbon monoxide detectors. Amazon, who recently made headlines when defective CO detectors were removed from their site, does not appear to sell a marine carbon monoxide alarm like those listed at the fisheries supply website.

Sophia's Law and the Minnesota department of natural resources, also realizes that an audible alarm at 70 ppm of CO may not be enough. Another warning is provided that stresses the need for boat owners to consider using low level CO monitors in addition to the marine alarms.

Low level monitors often have visual displays and audible alarms that will show CO concentrations below 30 ppm. This is an important addition to Sophia's Law as it also states, "Low level monitors provide additional protection which is important to at-risk populations such as the very young, the elderly, and those with health concerns."

Sadly, the very young are affected more quickly by the affects of carbon monoxide. Sophia Baechler laid down to take a nap on board the family boat, and according to an article published by the local CBS news, she passed away within 10 minutes of exposure.

Sophia's law requires warning labels and CO alarms on boats, but it also requires the boating industry to recognize the potential problems that may still exist within boating safety. Sophia's law sheds light on the need for increasing the availability of marine CO detectors, the need for low level detection, and increased public awareness to the dangers of carbon monoxide.