Carbon monoxide (CO)has a range of applications in different industries. In materials science, it produces pure metals from ores by stripping off the oxygen component in oxides. It’s also used in fuel gas mixtures for cutting, welding, and other production processes. But, despite these purposeful benefits, this chemical substance can be highly dangerous without proper handling. Here’s what you need to know about it.
What It Is
When fuels, like coal and charcoal, undergo complete combustion, carbon dioxide is formed. But if the burning is partial, CO is produced instead. This is due to the insufficient level of oxygen, where one atom of this element is added only.
CO is known for two notable qualities: a.) invisible and b.) odorless. It’s also tasteless. As a result, you can’t detect it if it’s present in the atmosphere. Many homes and commercial building shave an alarm or gas analyzer to alert instances of leakage.
What It Can Do to You
There’s a reason why this chemical compound has the nickname, “the silent killer.” It’s deadly to animals and humans if it’s inhaled in large amounts. Unsuspecting victims who enter a room filled with this toxic substance will experience blurry vision, dizziness, and trouble in breathing. As this gas continues to displace oxygen, the person may pass out or develop seizures. This’ll lead to an unfortunate death if help doesn’t come.
What happens inside the body is that CO attaches itself to the red blood cells. In effect, a compound called carboxyhemoglobin is formed, which inhibits the delivery of oxygen to the heart, brain, and other vital organs.
Where It Comes From
If CO isn’t intentionally produced for industrial applications, it comes off as a byproduct of certain chemical reactions. These can occur from two common sources:
At home, fuel-powered kitchen devices, such as your non-electric space heater and gas grill,emit CO.Ensuring adequate ventilation when you cook is crucial to avoid the dangers of indoor poisoning.
As your automobile runs, it releases CO via its exhaust. For your safety, don’t leave your car on and idle inside a closed garage, and check if there’s any blockage in the piping.
Besides the people who are exposed to these common sources, industrial workers, such as those handling metals, are also at risk. Companies are legally required to follow safety protocols, in which a detector or exhaust gas analyzer should be installed.