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Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Last updated date: 29th Feb 2024
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What is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide can be described as a colorless, tasteless, and odorless, flammable gas with the chemical formula as CO, which is slightly less dense than air. It is toxic to the animals, which take hemoglobin as an oxygen carrier (both vertebrate and invertebrate) when encountered concentrations that are above 35 ppm. However, it is produced in normal animal metabolism in low quantities and is thought to contain a few normal biological functions. 

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning can occur in brain damage and even death. As this gas is odorless and colorless, we cannot notice its smell or taste, but it can be fatal for human beings.

Points to Note: 

  • Carbon Monoxide is electronic with the other triply-bonded diatomic species, which processes 10 valence electrons, including the nitrosonium cation, the cyanide anion, molecular nitrogen, and boron monofluoride. The carbon monoxide ligand is referred to as carbonyl in coordination complexes.

  • It is spatially variable and short-lived in the atmosphere, having a role in the ground-level ozone formation.

  • Carbon monoxide holds one carbon and one oxygen atom connected by a triple bond, consisting of one sigma bond and two net pi bonds. It is one of the simplest oxocarbons. 

Causes of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide forms when the organic compounds are burned in the presence of oxygen. The exhaust gases from engine fumes, motor vehicles, non-electric heaters, and fire smoke are common production sources of carbon monoxide. 

Carbon monoxide can also be found in any combustion fumes produced by the sources given below.

  • Car Engines

  • Boats Engines

  • Charcoal grills

  • Car mufflers

  • Degreasers

  • Cigarette smoke

  • Gas water heaters

  • Fireplaces

  • Gasoline-powered concrete saws

  • Gasoline and diesel-powered generators

  • Kerosene space heaters

  • Indoor tractor pulls

  • Paint removers

  • Non-Electric heaters

  • Propane heaters, stoves

  • Portable generators

  • Solvents

  • Space heaters

  • Propane-fueled forklifts

  • Spray paint

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Symptoms

Breathing in an excess amount of carbon monoxide can replace oxygen in the blood with CO. If this occurs, the person turns unconscious and leads to a life-threatening situation. 

The excessive consumption of Carbon monoxide symptoms can be given as follows:

  • Headache

  • Weakness

  • Nausea

  • Dizziness

  • Vomiting

  • Loss of consciousness

  • Difficulty in breathing

  • Death

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention

To avoid being poisoned by carbon monoxide, it is advised to take proper preventive measures. A few of the preventive measures can be listed as follows.

  • The carbon monoxide detectors must be used and placed near the CO source.

  • There must be much ventilation in houses with more factories or traffics in the area.

  • One should never ignore the symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning.

  • Sleeping near a gas space heater or kerosene must be prevented.

Unsafe Level of Carbon Monoxide

The concentration of carbon monoxide lies in parts per million (ppm), as measured. Health effects ranging from 1 to 70 ppm of CO exposure are unclear, but many people do not feel any symptoms. As the CO rates increase towards 150 to 200 ppm, there comes a space for unconsciousness, disorientation, and death.

Uses of Carbon Monoxide

Let us loom at some of the Carbon monoxides uses in various industries, where a few are mentioned below:

1. Metallurgy

Carbon monoxide is a strong reductive agent, and it has been used in pyrometallurgy in reducing metals from ores since ancient times. CO strips oxygen off the metal oxides by reducing them to pure metal in higher temperatures, by forming carbon dioxide in the process. 

Usually, it is not supplied in the gaseous phase in the reactor. Rather, it is formed at high temperatures in the presence of carboniferous agents like coke and oxygen-carrying ore at high temperatures. The process of a blast furnace is one of the typical examples of a reduction process of metal from ore with carbon monoxide.

2. Niche Uses

CO has been recommended to use as a fuel on Mars. Carbon monoxide or oxygen engines have been suggested for early use of transportation surface as both oxygen and carbon monoxide can be produced straightforwardly from the carbon dioxide atmosphere of Mars using zirconia electrolysis, without the help of any Martian water resources in obtaining hydrogen, which would be needed to make any hydrogen-based fuel or methane. 

Similarly, the blast furnace gas, which is collected at the top of the blast furnace, still contains around 10% to 30% of carbon monoxide, and it is used as Cowper stoves fuel and on the Siemens-Martin furnaces on open-hearth steelmaking.

Explain Why it is Dangerous to Inhale Carbon Monoxide?

CO binds about 700 times better to the blood's hemoglobin than oxygen does. When a hemoglobin molecule binds to a carbon monoxide molecule, it cannot carry oxygen. Therefore, a much low carbon monoxide level ties up with a LOT of the hemoglobin because, once it is bound, it does not let go. CO does not allow the cells that they need to live, and thus, they die. Resultantly, a person will die.

In addition to tying up the hemoglobin, Carbon monoxide has an added danger: it is odorless. You can't smell carbon monoxide, so you don't realize that you are being exposed.

FAQs on Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

1. What are the CO₂ Poisoning Causes

Ans: Household devices, including boilers, gas fires, central heating systems, cookers, water heaters, open fires that use oil, gas, wood, and coal can be possible sources of CO gas. This happens when the fire is not burning completely. Running a car engine in a confined place may lead to the poisoning of carbon monoxide.

2. Does Carbon Monoxide Make Us Fall Asleep?

Ans: Most of the people with moderate exposure to carbon monoxide experience tiredness, nausea, and headaches. Since they are mostly flu-like, sadly, the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning in humans are often ignored. At the same time, medium exposure can lead to drowsiness, headache, increased heart rate, and disorientation.

3. Is it Possible to Smell Carbon Monoxide?

Ans: The CO gas is an odorless and colorless one that is formed by the carbon-containing burning content. We cannot see it, taste it, or even smell it; instead, we can be killed by carbon monoxide. It is called the "silent killer" since carbon monoxide is a tasteless, odorless, and colorless gas.

4. Which Gas Smells Like Rotten Eggs?

Ans: Hydrogen Sulfide smells like rotten eggs. Natural gas is the one that is clean, efficient, odorless, and colorless. We add harmless chemicals known as mercaptan to result in a distinctive odor to gas for easy detection. Several people describe the smell as an odor similar to hydrogen sulfide or rotten eggs.