A 44 year old man was working in his shop late at night in Toowoomba, he was believed to be using a generator in a confined space while repairing storm-damaged floors. He collapsed and subsequently died after the paramedics tried to resuscitate him. This tragic incident could and should’ve been avoided. Carbon monoxide is an odourless, colourless, tasteless and deadly gas.
What is CO?
It comprises one carbon atom and one oxygen atom, and if it’s inhaled in large amounts, it can be immensely toxic. Carbon monoxide originates from the incomplete burning of fuels like gasoline, natural gas, coal, wood, and oil in an environment where there is inadequate oxygen.
When and where is CO detected and used?
Carbon monoxide is important in many industries, especially in iron and steel production where it is used as a reducing agent. It is also used to make certain chemicals like methanol and acetic acid. Carbon monoxide and hydrogen can be turned into liquid hydrocarbons through chemical synthesis, which can be used as synthetic fuels.
However, carbon monoxide is a pollutant that is present in exhaust fumes from vehicles and industrial sources. It can also be used as a fuel in gas turbines and specific types of engines, as well as in various laboratory chemical reactions and as a calibration gas.
It is crucial to detect carbon monoxide in confined spaces with engines or heaters, such as in spacecraft and aviation, to ensure the safety of crew members and passengers. Carbon monoxide is also used in analytical chemistry and gas detection as a calibration gas for gas chromatographs and gas detectors. Additionally, it is utilized in some heat-treating processes, known as carburization, to increase the hardness and wear resistance of metals.
Signs of CO poisoning?
Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning can be difficult to detect because the gas is colourless, odourless, and tasteless.
The danger of this gas is that it has the ability to penetrate the bloodstream via the lungs and attach itself to haemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that is responsible for transporting oxygen. This results in a lack of oxygen supply to vital organs, which poses serious health risks to both humans and animals.
Symptoms can vary depending on the concentration and duration of exposure.
Early signs of CO poisoning are often similar to flu-like symptoms, which can lead to misdiagnosis.
Common signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include:
- Dizziness and Weakness
- Nausea and Vomiting
- Shortness of Breath.
- Confusion and Cognitive
- Chest Pain
- Visual Disturbances
- Loss of Consciousness
How to prevent Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning
To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, it is essential to have functioning carbon monoxide detectors in homes and workplaces, to properly maintain and ventilate fuel-burning appliances, and to never use generators, grills, or other fuel-burning devices indoors or in enclosed spaces.
Installing CO detectors in your workplace can provide an early warning and potentially save lives by alerting you to dangerous levels of gas.
- Chemical Detection: Chemical detectors are small, portable devices that change colour when exposed to carbon monoxide. They typically contain a chemical compound that reacts with CO, causing a colour change that indicates the presence of the gas. These detectors are affordable and can be used in various settings, but they usually have a limited lifespan and need periodic replacement.
- Electrochemical Sensors: Electrochemical sensors are commonly used in dedicated carbon monoxide detectors. These sensors consist of electrodes immersed in an electrolyte solution. When carbon monoxide comes into contact with the sensor, a chemical reaction occurs, leading to a current flow that is proportional to the CO concentration. The detector measures this current and provides a reading or triggers an alarm when the CO level exceeds a certain threshold.
At Control Equipment we are constantly in search of new and safer technologies to keep at the cutting edge of technology development. We do this so that we can offer the best possible solution to our gas detecting customers.
Take a look at our fixed and portable Carbon Monoxide Gas detectors we offer.
In case of suspected carbon monoxide poisoning, immediate action should be taken to get to fresh air and seek medical attention.