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Why is Carbon Monoxide Dangerous

Carbon monoxide, CO, is a tasteless, colorless and odorless gas. So what makes carbon monoxide so dangerous to humans and animals? This post will answer that question!

Why is Carbon Monoxide Dangerous?

In low quantities, carbon monoxide is not dangerous. In fact, both animals and humans produce low levels of carbon monoxide during normal metabolism. It is believed the gas actually has some important role in the body. However, in high amounts, carbon monoxide is extremely dangerous. It combines with hemoglobin (a part of the blood) to produce carboxyhemoglobin. Hemoglobin transports oxygen to body tissues. Carboxyhemoglobin stops oxygen getting to body tissues as it is ineffective at transporting oxygen. Obviously, this is very dangerous as oxygen needs to be transported around the body. Carbon monoxide is very dangerous because, besides the symptoms which are very similar to the flu or other types of poisoning, the gas is unrecognizable. There is no taste, odor or color! Sources of carbon monoxide include faulty furnaces, fires, heaters, portable stoves, welders and power cutters. Don’t use these items in enclosed spaces!

Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Lethargy and feeling weak
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Seizures
  • Visual disturbance
  • Retinal hemorrhages (rare)
  • Cherry-red blood hue (rare)
  • Infants will become irritable and feed poorly

Carbon monoxide may also cause significant damage to the heart and central nervous system. It can also cause adverse effects to a fetus of a pregnant woman or animal.

Other Chemistry Topics

Uses of Carbon

Physical Properties of Hydrogen

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