Analox Sensor Technology

The dangers of carbon dioxide

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Courtesy of Analox Sensor Technology

We are often asked about the effects of carbon dioxide on the body and how to tell if there is a gas leak. As a result of this, we have created this post to provide additional information about exposure to carbon dioxide.

What is carbon dioxide?

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a gas which occurs naturally in the Earth’s atmosphere at a rate of 400 parts per million (ppm). It is colourless, odourless and non-flammable.

CO2 is used in a wide range of industries:

The level of CO2 normally in the atmosphere is harmless, but an increase of levels of the gas in a working or home environment can have serious health effects. Some organisations have set long and short term exposure limits for working, and this legislation varies globally. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) have set an exposure limit of 5,000ppm over an eight-hour period, and 30,000ppm over a 10-minute period, whilst the European standard EH40 has set a short-term 15-minute exposure limit of 15,000ppm.

How can different levels of carbon dioxide affect me?

  • 0.04% (400ppm) – this is the normal level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere
  • 1 – 1.5% (10,000 – 15,000ppm) – slight effect on chemical metabolism after exposure of several hours
  • 3% – (30,000ppm) – carbon dioxide is weakly narcotic at this level, resulting in deeper breathing, reduced hearing, headaches and an increase in blood pressure and pulse rate
  • 4-5% (40,000ppm – 50,000ppm) – breathing becomes deeper and more rapid. Signs of intoxication becomes more evident after 30 minutes exposure
  • 5-10% (50,000ppm – 100,000ppm) – breathing becomes more laborious with headache and loss of judgement
  • >10% (100,000ppm) – when CO2 concentration increases above 10%, unconsciousness will occur in less than one minute. Unless prompt action is taken, further exposure will eventually result in death

How can different levels of CO2 affect me? Downloadable document

Physiological effects of carbon dioxide Carbon dioxide symptoms

Physiological effects of carbon dioxide include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Reduced hearing
  • Mild narcosis
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dimmed sight
  • Tremors
  • Sweating
  • Unconsciousness

The benefits of a carbon dioxide monitor

As CO2 has no taste or smell, it can be hard to detect. This is why CO2 monitors are so important, and a workplace risk assessment may suggest that gas detectors are installed.

Analox offer a wide range of carbon dioxide monitors – from portable monitors like the Aspida and the ACG+ to fixed monitors like the Ax60.

As CO2 is heavier than air, it is recommended that fixed carbon dioxide detectors are not mounted at head height – for example, we recommend that the Ax60 is wall-mounted 450mm off the ground and the repeater unit is placed at head height at the entrance to the room.

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