Carbon monoxide

Carbon monoxide poisoning typically occurs from breathing in carbon monoxide CO at excessive levels. Carbon monoxide poisoning can occur accidentally, as an attempt to end one's own lifeor as an attempt to end another's life. Efforts to prevent poisoning include carbon monoxide detectorsproper venting of gas applianceskeeping chimneys clean, and keeping exhaust systems of vehicles in good repair.


Carbon monoxide poisoning is relatively common, resulting in more than 20, emergency room visits a year in the United States. Carbon monoxide is not toxic to all forms of life. Its harmful effects are due to binding with hemoglobin so its danger to organisms that do not use this compound is doubtful.

It thus has no effect on photosynthesising plants. Different people and populations may have different carbon monoxide tolerance levels. The main manifestations of carbon monoxide poisoning develop in the organ systems most dependent on oxygen use, the central nervous system and the heart.

One of the major concerns following acute carbon monoxide poisoning is the severe delayed neurological manifestations that may occur. Problems may include difficulty with higher intellectual functions, short-term memory lossdementiaamnesiapsychosisirritability, a strange gaitspeech disturbances, Parkinson's disease -like syndromes, cortical blindnessand a depressed mood. One classic sign of carbon monoxide poisoning is more often seen in the dead rather than the living — people have been described as looking red-cheeked and healthy see below.

However, since this "cherry-red" appearance is more common in the dead, it is not considered a useful diagnostic sign in clinical medicine. In autopsy examinations, the ruddy appearance of carbon monoxide poisoning is notable because unembalmed dead persons are normally bluish and pale, whereas dead carbon-monoxide poisoned people may appear unusually lifelike in coloration. Chronic exposure to relatively low levels of carbon monoxide may cause persistent headaches, lightheadedness, depression, confusion, memory loss, nausea, hearing disorders and vomiting.

Carbon monoxide is a product of combustion of organic matter under conditions of restricted oxygen supply, which prevents complete oxidation to carbon dioxide CO 2. Sources of carbon monoxide include cigarette smoke, house fires, faulty furnacesheaters, wood-burning stoves[53] internal combustion vehicle exhaustelectrical generatorspropane -fueled equipment such as portable stoves, and gasoline-powered tools such as leaf blowerslawn mowers, high-pressure washers, concrete cutting saws, power trowels, and welders.

Riding in the back of pickup trucks has led to poisoning in children. Generators and propulsion engines on boats, especially houseboats, has resulted in fatal carbon monoxide exposures. Poisoning may also occur following the use of a self-contained underwater breathing apparatus SCUBA due to faulty diving air compressors. In caves carbon monoxide can build up in enclosed chambers due to the presence of decomposing organic matter. Such an incident followed the Trimdon Grange explosion which killed men in the Kelloe mine.Carbon monoxide CO is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless flammable gas that is slightly less dense than air.

It is toxic to animals that use hemoglobin as an oxygen carrier both invertebrate and vertebrate when encountered in concentrations above about 35 ppmalthough it is also produced in normal animal metabolism in low quantitiesand is thought to have some normal biological functions. In the atmosphere, it is spatially variable and short-lived, having a role in the formation of ground-level ozone. Carbon monoxide consists of one carbon atom and one oxygen atom, connected by a triple bond that consists of a net two pi bonds and one sigma bond.

It is the simplest oxocarbon and is isoelectronic with other triply-bonded diatomic species possessing 10 valence electrons, including the cyanide anion, the nitrosonium cation, boron monofluoride and molecular nitrogen. In coordination complexes the carbon monoxide ligand is called carbonyl. Aristotle — BC first recorded that burning coals produced toxic fumes. An ancient method of execution was to shut the criminal in a bathing room with smoldering coals.

What was not known was the mechanism of death.

Greek physician Galen — AD speculated that there was a change in the composition of the air that caused harm when inhaled.

The gas was identified as a compound containing carbon and oxygen by the Scottish chemist William Cruickshank in During World War IIa gas mixture including carbon monoxide was used to keep motor vehicles running in parts of the world where gasoline and diesel fuel were scarce.

External with a few exceptions charcoal or wood gas generators were fitted, and the mixture of atmospheric nitrogen, hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and small amounts of other gases produced by gasification was piped to a gas mixer. The gas mixture produced by this process is known as wood gas. Carbon monoxide is produced from the partial oxidation of carbon -containing compounds; it forms when there is not enough oxygen to produce carbon dioxide CO 2such as when operating a stove or an internal combustion engine in an enclosed space.

In the presence of oxygen, including atmospheric concentrations, carbon monoxide burns with a blue flame, producing carbon dioxide. Some processes in modern technology, such as iron smeltingstill produce carbon monoxide as a byproduct. For this reason, the process off-gases have to be purified. On the other hand, considerable research efforts are made in order to optimize the process conditions, [12] develop catalyst with improved selectivity [13] and to understand the reaction pathways leading to the target product and side products.

In biology, carbon monoxide is naturally produced by the action of heme oxygenase 1 and 2 on the heme from hemoglobin breakdown. This process produces a certain amount of carboxyhemoglobin in normal persons, even if they do not breathe any carbon monoxide.

Following the first report that carbon monoxide is a normal neurotransmitter in[17] [18] as well as one of three gases that naturally modulate inflammatory responses in the body the other two being nitric oxide and hydrogen sulfidecarbon monoxide has received a great deal of clinical attention as a biological regulator.

In many tissues, all three gases are known to act as anti-inflammatoriesvasodilatorsand promoters of neovascular growth. Some deep-diving marine mammal species are known to contain concentrations of carbon monoxide in their blood that resembles levels seen in chronic cigarette smokers.

Carbon monoxide has a molar mass of The bond length between the carbon atom and the oxygen atom is Carbon—oxygen double bonds are significantly longer, The ground electronic state of carbon monoxide is a singlet state [27] since there are no unpaired electrons.

Carbon and oxygen together have a total of 10 electrons in the valence shell. Following the octet rule for both carbon and oxygen, the two atoms form a triple bondwith six shared electrons in three bonding molecular orbitals, rather than the usual double bond found in organic carbonyl compounds. Since four of the shared electrons come from the oxygen atom and only two from carbon, one bonding orbital is occupied by two electrons from oxygen, forming a dative or dipolar bond.

The molecule is therefore asymmetric: oxygen has more electron density than carbon, and is also slightly positively charged compared to carbon being negative. By contrast, the isoelectronic dinitrogen molecule has no dipole moment. Carbon monoxide has a computed fractional bond order of 2. Because of the lone pair and divalence of carbon in this resonance structure, carbon monoxide is often considered to be an extraordinarily stabilized carbene.CO is found in fumes produced any time you burn fuel in cars or trucks, small engines, stoves, lanterns, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges, or furnaces.

CO can build up indoors and poison people and animals who breathe it. The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. People who are sleeping or drunk can die from CO poisoning before they have symptoms.

Everyone is at risk for CO poisoning. Infants, the elderly, people with chronic heart disease, anemia, or breathing problems are more likely to get sick from CO. Each year, more than Americans die from unintentional CO poisoning not linked to fires, more than 20, visit the emergency room, and more than 4, are hospitalized.

Skip directly to site content Skip directly to page options Skip directly to A-Z link. Carbon Monoxide Poisoning. Section Navigation. Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Syndicate. Frequently Asked Questions. Minus Related Pages. What is Carbon Monoxide? Carbon monoxide detector.

carbon monoxide

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You will be subject to the destination website's privacy policy when you follow the link. CDC is not responsible for Section compliance accessibility on other federal or private website. Cancel Continue.Carbon monoxide CO is a colorless, odorless, and toxic gas, which is predominantly produced by incomplete combustion of carbon-containing materials.

Incomplete combustion occurs when insufficient oxygen is used in the fuel hydrocarbon burning process. Consequently, more carbon monoxide, in preference to carbon dioxide, is emitted. Some examples of this are the following: vehicle exhausts, fuel burning furnaces, coal burning power plants, small gasoline engines, portable gasoline-powered generators, power washers, fire places, charcoal grills, marine engines, forklifts, propane-powered heaters, gas water heaters, and kerosene heaters. Common symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure are headache, nausea, rapid breathing, weakness, exhaustion, dizziness, and confusion.

Hypoxia severe oxygen deficiency due to acute carbon monoxide poisoning may result in reversible neurological effects, or it may result in long-term and possibly delayed irreversible neurological brain damage or cardiological heart damage effects. Carbon monoxide exposure can be dangerous during pregnancy for both the mother and the developing fetus. Occupational Health Guideline for Carbon Monoxide pdf icon.

carbon monoxide

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Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Section Navigation. Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Syndicate. Minus Related Pages. On This Page. Related Topics. Related Topics All Chemical Topics. Links with this icon indicate that you are leaving the CDC website. Linking to a non-federal website does not constitute an endorsement by CDC or any of its employees of the sponsors or the information and products presented on the website.

You will be subject to the destination website's privacy policy when you follow the link. CDC is not responsible for Section compliance accessibility on other federal or private website. Cancel Continue.Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs when carbon monoxide builds up in your bloodstream. When too much carbon monoxide is in the air, your body replaces the oxygen in your red blood cells with carbon monoxide.

This can lead to serious tissue damage, or even death. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas produced by burning gasoline, wood, propane, charcoal or other fuel. Improperly ventilated appliances and engines, particularly in a tightly sealed or enclosed space, may allow carbon monoxide to accumulate to dangerous levels.

If you think you or someone you're with may have carbon monoxide poisoning, get into fresh air and seek emergency medical care. Carbon monoxide poisoning can be particularly dangerous for people who are sleeping or intoxicated.

About Carbon Monoxide and Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

People may have irreversible brain damage or even die before anyone realizes there's a problem. The warning signs of carbon monoxide poisoning can be subtle. But the condition is a life-threatening medical emergency. Carbon monoxide poisoning is caused by inhaling combustion fumes. When too much carbon monoxide is in the air you're breathing, your body replaces the oxygen in your red blood cells with carbon monoxide.

This prevents oxygen from reaching your tissues and organs. Various fuel-burning appliances and engines produce carbon monoxide. The amount of carbon monoxide produced by these sources usually isn't cause for concern. But if they're used in a closed or partially closed space — cooking with a charcoal grill indoors, for example — the carbon monoxide can build to dangerous levels.

Use caution when working with solvents in a closed area. Methylene chloride, a solvent commonly found in paint and varnish removers, can break down metabolize into carbon monoxide when inhaled. Exposure to methylene chloride can cause carbon monoxide poisoning. When working with solvents at home, use them only outdoors or in well-ventilated areas. Carefully read the instructions and follow the safety precautions on the label.

Mayo Clinic does not endorse companies or products. Advertising revenue supports our not-for-profit mission. This content does not have an English version. This content does not have an Arabic version. Overview Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs when carbon monoxide builds up in your bloodstream. Request an Appointment at Mayo Clinic. Share on: Facebook Twitter. Show references Carbon monoxide poisoning — Frequently asked questions.Medically reviewed by Drugs. Last updated on May 18, Carbon monoxide is a tasteless, colorless, odorless gas found in the fumes of fuels that contain carbon, such as wood, coal and gasoline.

Carbon monoxide poisoning is a potentially fatal illness that occurs when people breathe in carbon monoxide.

Carbon monoxide

All sorts of sources can release carbon monoxide, including cars, trucks, small gasoline engines like lawnmowersstoves, lanterns, furnaces, grills, gas ranges, water heaters and clothes dryers. The risk of poisoning is especially high when equipment is used in an enclosed place and ventilation is poor.

Carbon monoxide poisoning can occur in victims of smoke inhalation during a fire. More than one-third of carbon monoxide-related deaths occur when the victim is asleep. Once inhaled, carbon monoxide passes from your lungs into your bloodstream, where it attaches to the hemoglobin molecules that normally carry oxygen.

Oxygen can't travel on a hemoglobin molecule that already has carbon monoxide attached to it. As exposure continues, the gas hijacks more and more hemoglobin molecules, and the blood gradually loses its ability to carry enough oxygen to meet your body's needs.

Without enough oxygen, individual cells suffocate and die, especially in vital organs such as the brain and heart. Carbon monoxide also can act directly as a poison, interfering with cells' internal chemical reactions. Symptoms vary depending on the concentration of carbon monoxide in the environment, the length of time you are exposed, and your health. If you are exposed to very high levels of carbon monoxide gas in a poorly ventilated room, you can develop:.

Without immediate treatment, you can lose consciousness, have a seizure, enter a coma, and potentially die. Death can result from only a few minutes of exposure to higher concentrations or from an hour of exposure to lower levels. If you are exposed to very low levels of carbon monoxide over a longer period weeks or monthsyour symptoms can appear like the flu, with headache, fatigue, malaise a general sick feeling and sometimes nausea and vomiting. People with long-term exposure to low levels of carbon monoxide also can have numbness, unexplained vision problems, sleep disturbances, and impaired memory and concentration.

If you are unconscious, your doctor's first priority is to stabilize your condition, providing emergency treatment such as oxygen, fluid and treatment for seizures.

Information about the exposure will be collected from the emergency personnel, your relatives, or both. This is especially important if you are a victim of smoke inhalation during a fire, because you could have inhaled other toxic gases besides carbon monoxide.Carbon monoxideCOa highly toxic, colourless, odourless, flammable gas produced industrially for use in the manufacture of numerous organic and inorganic chemical products; it is also present in the exhaust gases of internal-combustion engines and furnaces as a result of incomplete conversion of carbon or carbon-containing fuels to carbon dioxide.

Indication of carbon monoxide poisoning include headacheweakness, dizziness, nauseafaintingand, in severe cases, coma, weak pulse, and respiratory failure. Treatment must be prompt and includes respiratory assistance and the administration of oxygen, often with 5 percent carbon dioxide and sometimes under high pressure. For use in manufacturing processes, carbon monoxide is made by passing air through a bed of incandescent coke or coalor by the reaction of natural gas with oxygen at high temperatures in the presence of a catalyst.

The carbon monoxide resulting from these processes generally is contaminated with other substances, such as nitrogen or carbon dioxide, which may be removed if they are undesirable in the intended application.

Carbon monoxide poisoning

It is only slightly soluble in waterand its physical properties closely resemble those of nitrogen. Carbon monoxide reacts with water vapour at high temperatures, forming carbon dioxide and hydrogen; this process has been used as a source of hydrogen for combination with nitrogen in the synthesis of ammonia.

With caustic alkalies, carbon monoxide forms alkali formates, which can be converted into either formic acid or alkali oxalates for the production of oxalic acid.

With certain metals, carbon monoxide forms compounds called carbonyls, many of which are volatile; this reaction has been used in the purification of nickel. Carbon monoxide and hydrogen are the starting materials in the manufacture of methanol and also are used in the preparation of aldehydes and alcohols from olefins and in making mixtures of liquid hydrocarbons suitable for use as fuels.

Gas mixtures containing varying ratios of carbon monoxide and molecular hydrogen are called synthesis gas. Carbon monoxide. Article Media. Info Print Cite. Submit Feedback. Thank you for your feedback. Home Science Chemistry.

carbon monoxide

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica Encyclopaedia Britannica's editors oversee subject areas in which they have extensive knowledge, whether from years of experience gained by working on that content or via study for an advanced degree See Article History. Read More on This Topic. In addition, it also forms carbon suboxide, C 3 O 2.


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