Carbon monoxide, shortened to CO in chemistry terms, is a gas that is odorless, tasteless, and colorless, and therefore it is completely undetectable by humans. Unfortunately, higher concentrations of CO are extremely toxic to humans and animals due to the negative effects it has on the cardiovascular and neurological systems. For this reason, many states now require by law that homeowners have at least one Co detector near sleeping areas so as to avoid CO poisoning, which can cause a number of health problems (some long-lasting) and even death.
Chemical Construction and Production
CO is composed of two atoms, one carbon and one oxide. These are joined together by one dipolar bond and two covalent bonds. This gas is produced when not enough oxygen is produced while burning carbon compounds; incomplete combustion will lead to greater production of CO rather than CO2.
Sources and Causes
There are many sources of CO in our world today. When burning fossil fuels, CO is often produced as a result. Gas ranges, gas ovens, coal, charcoal, propane gas, kerosene, the internal combustion engine, vehicles, generators, lawn mowers, cigarette smoke, faulty furnaces or appliances, all of these are manmade constructions or uses that lead to the production of CO gas. Natural sources of CO are also prevalent, including volcanoes, brush fires, and forest or wood fires.
Historical Discovery and Usage
Carbon monoxide has been around for centuries, of course. Our first recorded evidence that humans had noticed its presence was when Aristotle noted that burning coals produced a noxious gas. It wasn’t until the 1800s that chemists figured out the compound of CO and some of its properties. This gas was actually used in Nazi concentration camps to murder large portions of Jews and other Holocaust victims.
Dangers for Humans
CO poisoning happens to be the leading cause of fatal gas poisoning in our country, as well as in multiple other countries. The reason for this is because when breathed in, it combines with the hemoglobin in your blood to create carboxyhemoglobin, which makes it difficult for oxygen to reach the organs and tissues of the body (a job that would have been carried out by the hemoglobin). Thus, as more and more CO combines with hemoglobin in your blood, the carboxyhemoglobin formed eliminates the body’s ability to transfer oxygen necessary for sustaining life.
Symptoms of CO poisoning
When higher concentrations of CO are inhaled, the body reacts negatively to the production of carboxyhemoglobin. Mild acute CO poisoning results in flu-like symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, malaise, and the like. These are also among the symptoms of chronic CO poisoning, which is low exposure over an extended period of time. With severe acute CO poisoning, disorientation, confusion, and seizures can result, leading to unconsciousness and death.
CO in the Home
CO can be produced in the home, particularly with furnaces, wood fires, and faulty appliances. For this reason, it is important to get your appliances and furnaces regularly inspected and attended to at least once per year. Installing a CO detector for home security is also a good idea for helping you to know when there might be a problem with the air quality in your home. As we cannot detect this gas on our own, using a CO alarm will alert you to the danger so that you can get out of the house and to a safer area while the fire department clears up the problem.
If you’d like more information about carbon monoxide and how you can improve your home security by installing a CO detector, call this number to receive more information from a home security professional: 866-565-4305.