40 Awesome Carbon Monoxide Facts You Must Learn!

Carbon monoxide facts in this list will help you understand a lot about this particular chemical and how it is a threat to our health. Most likely, you have already heard about this gas a lot.

You may have learned over the years how this gas works as a silent and often undetectable killer. You may have even learned about this chemical in a chapter in your chemistry book.

Today, however, we are going to learn some interesting facts about carbon monoxide. It is needless to say that you may already know a few of them but we are sure, there will be something for you to take away from this article.

If you are excited, read on. Read it anyway even if you are not excited. Come on! We worked hard to bring these facts to you and we demand you read the list at least once! Just kidding!

So, here we go…

Carbon Monoxide Facts: 1-5

1. One atom of carbon and one atom of oxygen combine to form a molecule of the carbon monoxide chemical. The chemical formula used for representing the chemical is CO.

2. The type of bond that is formed between the carbon atom and the oxygen atom in a molecule of carbon monoxide is called a covalent bond.

3. Carbon monoxide is a gas at room temperature. It is colorless and odorless. Thus, neither can you see it and nor can you smell it.

4. Carbon monoxide is naturally present in the Earth’s atmosphere. The concentration of carbon monoxide in the atmosphere is 0.2 parts per million (ppm).

5. Because of its extremely low concentration in Earth’s atmosphere, carbon monoxide is not considered a threat to humans. That low concentration is a safe level.

Carbon Monoxide Facts: 6-10

6. In case the concentration of carbon monoxide in the air that we breathe in is increased to 12,800 ppm, we will lose consciousness and we will collapse. Even worse, we will die within a time frame of just 1 minute to 3 minutes!

How carbon monoxide kills?

In case you didn’t know, hemoglobin in blood is responsible for transporting oxygen to body tissues. It does so by forming oxyhemoglobin by combining it with oxygen.

When we inhale air with a high amount of carbon monoxide in it, the gas binds with hemoglobin present in our blood by replacing oxygen. Upon combination with hemoglobin, carbon monoxide forms carboxyhemoglobin.

We need oxygen to survive. When carbon monoxide replaces oxygen, the cells in our body fail to get oxygen adequately. When large amounts of oxygen are replaced by carbon monoxide, it causes serious health problems and may turn out to be fatal.

Another bummer is that hemoglobin has a higher affinity to carbon monoxide than oxygen. This means given a choice between carbon monoxide and oxygen, hemoglobin will hands-down choose carbon monoxide over oxygen!

7. Carbon monoxide is highly toxic or poisonous gas. It can affect people of any age. However, children and old people are far more susceptible to carbon monoxide poisoning.

8. The gas is often referred to as the ‘silent killer’ because no one can see it or smell it or taste it.

9. Carbon monoxide poisoning is the commonest type of indoor gas poisoning. It is far more prevalent in countries where people depend on fire for cooking food and heating homes. This doesn’t mean that developed countries do not have the problem of carbon monoxide poisoning.

8. The commonest source of human-produced carbon monoxide is combustion. When there isn’t enough oxygen available for combustion to produce carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide is formed.

9. Researchers have found that cats are capable of sensing carbon monoxide and they refuse to enter the house when there are high amounts of CO present in the house. However, this is not a reliable indicator. Cats can refuse to enter a house for any number of reasons.

10. There is a phrase called ‘canary in a coal mine.’ Do you know where it came from? There was a time when miners used to take birds inside mines. The birds would act as a signal for the presence of dangerous gases such as carbon monoxide inside the mines.

Carbon Monoxide Facts: 11-15

11. People with anemia, breathing problems, and chronic heart disease are more likely to get sick from carbon monoxide.

12. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 400 individuals in America die each year because of CO poisoning that is not at all linked to fire.

13. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also says that over 20,000 Americans visit the emergency room every year because of CO exposure and 4000+ per year get hospitalized.

14. When any fuel like gasoline, oil, wood, etc. is not burned completely, it releases carbon monoxide.

15. Some of the common sources of carbon monoxide are gas lanterns and candles, charcoal grills, weed-eaters, chain saws, snowblowers, tools and vehicles powered by gasoline such as lawnmowers, oil or gas water heaters, gas space heaters, gas stoves, gas furnaces, wood furnaces, oil furnaces, portable generators, cigarette smoke, etc.

Carbon Monoxide Facts: 16-20

16. What makes young children more at risk of CO poisoning? That is because they breathe more frequently compared to adults and hence, they usually end up breathing in more carbon monoxide than adults in case of CO leak in a closed area.

17. Fetal blood cells are known to take up CO more readily compared to adult blood cells. This means that unborn babies are also at high risk of harm caused by CO poisoning. So, pregnant women need to be very careful.

18. Carbon monoxide poisoning has several symptoms depending on the concentration of carbon monoxide. In case of low to moderate poisoning, a person can experience dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath, fatigue, and headache.

19. In the case of high-level CO poisoning, people can experience vomiting, mental confusion, muscular coordination loss, consciousness loss, and in the worst case, they die!

20. CO poisoning incidences in households are way more common during the colder months because people usually keep doors and windows closed. This leads to poor ventilation and in an event of CO leak, the poisonous gas cannot escape the house quickly, leading to CO poisoning.

Carbon Monoxide Facts: 21-25

21. Yes, carbon monoxide is dangerous and poisonous but, did you know that our body produces carbon monoxide naturally as a signaling molecule?

22. The carbon monoxide naturally produced in our body may play physiological roles such as a blood vessel relaxant or a neurotransmitter.

23. Various diseases like pathological inflammation, heart failure, hypertension, and neurodegenerations are often linked to abnormalities in the metabolism of carbon monoxide naturally produced in our body.

24. Some microbes can convert carbon monoxide into carbon dioxide and produce energy.

25. The average levels of carbon monoxide present in homes are 0.5 to 5 parts per million by volume.

Carbon Monoxide Facts: 26-30

26. Nearly half of the carbon monoxide present in Earth’s atmosphere comes from the burning of fossil fuels and biomass (like bushfires and forests).

27. Chemical reactions with various organic compounds emitted by plants and human activities produce nearly the rest of the carbon monoxide present in Earth’s atmosphere.

28. Some carbon monoxide present in Earth’s atmosphere comes from geological activities and also from oceans.

29. Carbon monoxide present in Earth’s atmosphere is converted into carbon dioxide and ozone by natural processes.

30. In the human body, heme catabolism produces carbon monoxide and it is present in the blood. Normal levels of CO circulating in the blood is between 0% and 3% saturation (saturation in this context means the ratio of the amount of carboxyhemoglobin to the amount of total hemoglobin circulating in the blood). This is higher in the case of smokers.

Carbon Monoxide Facts: 31-35

31. In interstellar medium beyond Earth, after molecular hydrogen, carbon monoxide molecule is the second-most abundant molecule.

32. Comets have solid carbon monoxide! 15% of Halley’s Comet is carbon monoxide.

33. Triton, the moon of Neptune has carbon monoxide on its surface.

34. Carbon monoxide can react with water to form hydrogen and carbon dioxide. The reaction is chemically represented as CO + H2O → H2 + CO2.

35. Carbon monoxide is an important industrial gas and is widely used in bulk manufacturing of chemicals.

Carbon Monoxide Facts: 36-40

36. Pure carbon monoxide is often used for purifying nickel.

37. During World War II, fossil fuels were rationed and were reserved for military use. At that time many cars were tweaked to use wood gas a fuel. Wood gas is nothing but carbon monoxide and hydrogen produced by burning wood chips in insufficient air. A special oven called generator was used for making wood gas. The oven was carried on the car and the CO produced was used directly as fuel.

38. Carbon monoxide is slightly lighter than air. CO has a molar mass of 28.0 while air has a molar mass of 28.8.

39. Scientists have proposed that carbon monoxide can be used as a fuel on Mars.

40. Using zirconia electrolysis (zirconia is a white crystalline oxide of zirconium), both oxygen and carbon monoxide can be straightforwardly produced from the Martian atmosphere!


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