Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odourless, colourless gas that is found naturally occurring in the atmosphere. It exists at around 0.2 parts per million (ppm) and this is deemed to be a safe level for humans. To give context, oxygen naturally exists at 209,000 ppm.
However, many industrial activities can create carbon monoxide that reaches unsafe levels, and this is why many organisations choose to monitor the gas with a carbon monoxide gas detector.
We have put together 10 interesting facts about carbon monoxide.
- At a concentration of 12,800 ppm, CO will cause someone to collapse and lose consciousness, and death is likely to occur in just one to three minutes
- Carbon monoxide is the most common type of indoor air poisoning in countries where they still rely on fires to heat homes and cook food
- The most common source of human-produced CO is formed during combustion when there is not enough oxygen available to produce carbon dioxide
- CO gets into the bloodstream and prevents it from carrying oxygen to the cells and vital organs of the body
- CO is known as the ‘silent killer’ because it has no taste, no smell and you can’t see it
- Open fires, boilers and cookers all produce carbon monoxide
- Cats can sense a carbon monoxide leak and are known to refuse to come into the house – this is a good, but not to be relied upon, warning sign
- The phrase, ‘canary in a coal mine’ came about because miners used to take birds into mines to act as a warning signal for dangerous gases like carbon monoxide
- Carbon monoxide leaves the body quickly, so taking immediate action such as turning off an appliance, opening windows and leaving the area in the case of a suspected leak could save your life.