Carbon Monoxide - Health Effects

Exposure health effects of Carbon Monoxide - CO

Carbon monoxide is a odorless, tasteless, colorless and toxic gas.

Carbon monoxide is produced as a by-product of combustion. Any combustion process, fuel burning appliance, vehicle or other device has the potential to produce carbon monoxide gas.

Carbon monoxide is dangerous because it inhibits the blood's ability to carry oxygen to vital organs such as the heart and brain. Inhaled CO combines with the oxygen carrying hemoglobin of the blood and forms carboxyhemoglobin (COHb) which is unusable for transporting oxygen.

Health effects of various concentration of carbon monoxide:

Exposure
(hours)
CO Concentration
(ppm)1
Perceptible Sickness3) Deadly4)
0.5 600 1000 2000
1 200 600 1600
2 100 300 1000
4 50 150 400
6 25 120 200
8 252) 100 150

1) ppm - parts per million - is defined as the mass of the component in solution divided by the total mass of the solution multiplied by 106 (one million)

2) The maximum exposure allowed by OSHA in the workplace over an eight hour period is 35 ppm.

3) Typical sickness symptoms are mild headache, fatigue, nausea and dizziness.

4) A CO concentration of 12-13000 ppm is deadly after 1-3 minutes. A CO concentration of 1600 ppm is deadly after one hour.

carbon monoxide dangerous exposure time diagram

Concentration of
CO in the air
(ppm)
Inhalation Time Toxic Symptoms
9 Short term exposure ASHRAE recommended maximum allowable concentration in living area.
35 8 hours The maximum exposure allowed by OSHA in the workplace over an eight hour period.
200 2-3 hours Slight headache, tiredness, fatigue, nausea and dizziness.
400 1-2 hours Serious headache-other symptoms intensify.
Life threatening after 3 hours.
800 45 minutes Dizziness, nausea and convulsions.
Unconscious within 2 hours.
Death after 2-3 hours.
1,600 20 minutes Headache, dizziness and nausea.
Death within 1 hour.
3,200 5-10 minutes Headache, dizziness, nausea.
Death within 1 hour.
6,400 1-2 minutes Headache, dizziness, nausea.
Death within 25-30 minutes.
12,800 1-3 minutes Death within 1-3 minutes

Related Topics

  • Environment - Climate, Meteorology, Sun, Wind and environmental resources ..
  • Physiology - Human physiology, air quality and comfort temperatures, activity and metabolic rates, health effects of carbon monoxide and more
  • Ventilation - Systems for ventilation and air handling - air change rates, ducts and pressure drops, charts and diagrams and more

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