How Carbon Monoxide is Created How Carbon Monoxide is Created

Carbon monoxide (CO) is produced in many ways and can be a danger to humans. Perhaps the most alarming characteristic of carbon monoxide is the fact that it is not noticeable (unless you have a carbon monoxide detector), as it is colorless, tasteless and odorless. Carbon monoxide is also a major pollutant to our atmosphere.

Oxidation is the key factor in creating carbon monoxide. Oxidation is the increase in electrons, and when it results from a reaction that takes place with carbon, carbon monoxide is emitted. This oxidation leads to the release of the highly toxic gas and can be caused by numerous mechanisms.

What Creates CO

Carbon monoxide can be found in things as natural as a volcano or molten rock, but these aren't generally of great concern. Practically anything that runs an internal combustion engine releases carbon monoxide while burning petrol, including lawn mowers, cars and trucks and back-up generators. However, these are not the only producers of CO. Burning wood, coal and numerous types of gases also creates it. This is why the burning of leaves and debris is not allowed in larger towns, as it makes a very concentrated area of numerous atmospheric pollutants.

In Your Home

Perhaps the most disturbing place to be confronted with carbon monoxide is in your home. CO is released in malfunctioning appliances. In 2005, 94 deaths alone were caused by generators releasing carbon monoxide, about half of the deaths taking place during power outages. Any fuel burning appliance runs the risk of emitting carbon monoxide. Furnaces, gas ovens and water heaters can be contributors to CO poisoning, as well as something as simple as a fireplace. If you have a fireplace, it is important to have it cleaned and make sure it is fully operational every year to avoid disaster. Even minute amounts of CO in a confined area can be toxic.

How it Kills

Around 170 people in the US die each year of carbon monoxide poisoning and thousands are hospitalized. Once you have been exposed to carbon monoxide, it starts bonding to the hemoglobin (red part) of your blood that distributes oxygen throughout your body. Once these combine, they form a new hemoglobin cell called carboxyhemoglobin. Carboxyhemoglobin cells cannot properly deliver sufficient oxygen to your body, suffocating you from the inside. The first signs of CO poisoning resemble the flu or food poisoning, with added cognitive deficiencies such as confusion and slurred speech. Getting the person out of the house and to an emergency room is critical.

Prevent Toxicity

Carbon monoxide detectors are helpful for protecting your family against CO poisoning, but they have their draw-backs. Most only last for 2 years and there is no way to check if they are functioning. If you pay a little more, you can get one that lasts longer and can be tested to see if it is in working order.


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