Carbon Dioxide: Dangers & Management

According to Wikipedia, Carbon Dioxide is described as:

Carbon dioxide (chemical formula CO2) is a naturally occurring chemical compound composed of two oxygen atoms covalently bonded to a single carbon atom. It is a gas at standard temperature and pressure and exists in Earth’s atmosphere in this state, as a trace gas at a concentration of 0.039% by volume.

Carbon-Dioxide-MoleculeThis important greenhouse gas has been under scrutiny as the scientific and environmental communities explore the impact of rising CO2 in the atmosphere and in the oceans.

While the study of carbon dioxide’s impact on the world around us is an important issue, we need to understand the effects of COproduced from our bodies, the effects it can have on our bodies, and what we can do to keep a healthy balance.

Carbon dioxide is not in and of itself a pollutant, in fact it is added to beverages to carbonate them, and we purposely introduce carbon dioxide to our breads with the addition of baking soda to make it rise.

We emit carbon dioxide each and every time we exhale. This is because carbon dioxide is produced in organisms that break down sugars, fats, and amino acids as part of their metabolism, this includes plants, animals, fungi and even bacteria.

Plants have the ability to convert carbon dioxide during photosynthesis to oxygen, releasing it back into the atmosphere, and even thrive in high levels of CO2. Unfortunately for humans, we do not thrive in elevated levels of carbon dioxide as it is an asphyxiant gas.

Carbon dioxide becomes dangerous to people and animals when it begins to displace oxygen.  An asphyxiant gas is a nontoxic (in the case of carbon dioxide) gas which reduces or displaces the oxygen concentration in the air we breathe. When carbon dioxide replaces the oxygen in our blood flow, it is called Hypercapnia (or Hypercapnea).

the onset of hypercapnia normally alerts our bodies to seek oxygen, such as turning our head while asleep. A failure of this reflex can be fatal (commonly seen in cases of SIDS related infant deaths).

278px-Main_symptoms_of_carbon_dioxide_toxicity.svgNormal carbon dioxide levels in the air we breathe vary from about 0.036% to 0.039%. Concentrations of carbon dioxide of up to 1% will make people feel drowsy, while higher concentrations of CO2 in the 7% to 10% range can cause unconsciousness within a few minutes to an hour.

Symptoms of hypercapnia include flushed skin, elevated pulse, muscle twitches, hand flaps, reduced neural activity, and raised blood pressure in early stages, followed by headache, confusion and lethargy. Extreme cases of hypercapnia include disorientation, panic, hyperventilation, convulsions, unconsciousness, and eventually death.

When working with the potential of high levels of carbon dioxide, such as in the food industry, beer/wine making industries, and oil industry it is very important to monitor levels and regulate exposure to ensure worker health. In the United States, OSHA allows 5,000ppm in an 8-hour weighted average to maintain worker safety.

CO200-EXT-2TWhat can you do to maintain carbon dioxide levels in your facility?

Production Automation offers CO2 air quality monitors from Extech,  with the ability to detect ranges from 0 to 9,999ppm. Extech carbon dioxide meters also have the option to datalog up to 5,333 points.

Other Extech CO2 air quality monitor benefits:

  • Check for carbon dioxide concentrations with max/min value recall functions
  • Maintenance free NDIR (non-dispersive infrared) CO2 sensor
  • Indoor air quality displayed in ppm with GOOD (380 to 420 ppm), NORMAL (<1000ppm), POOR (>1000ppm) indication
  • Visible and audible carbon dioxide warning with relay output for ventilation control
  • Displays year, month, date and time
  • Automatic baseline calibration (minimum COlevel over 7.5 days) or manual calibration in fresh air

Measurement Ranges:

  • CO2: 0 to 9,999ppm
  • Temperature: 14 to 140°F (-10 to 60°C)
  • Humidity: 0.1 to 99.99% RH

View Extech Carbon Dioxide Monitors at Production Automation

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Mel Meadows

Mel Meadows

Mel Meadows is a product specialist with over 13 years of experience. She’s a central source of expertise for thousands of industrial and critical-class products featured on the Production Automation web store. By working directly with manufacturers, Mel deciphers technical documentation and outlines product use in real-world environments. View her profile to learn more about proper techniques, protocol, and product usage in both industrial and cleanroom facilities.

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