The Difference between Carbon Monoxide and Carbon Dioxide Detection

Carbon dioxide cannot be identified using a carbon monoxide detector. A carbon monoxide detector generally employs an electrochemical sensor that generates an electric current that corresponds to the amount of carbon monoxide interacting with the chemicals.

The Difference between Carbon Monoxide and Carbon Dioxide Detection

Image Credit: GasLab

A non-dispersive infrared (NDIR) sensor that quantifies light in a sample of air is used in carbon dioxide detectors. The amount of light that travels through the sample is inversely related to the amount of carbon dioxide in the air.

Comparing Carbon Monoxide and Carbon Dioxide    

The difference between carbon dioxide (CO2) and carbon monoxide (CO) is a crucial distinction of which customers need to know.

Due to the range of features they have in common, a high number of people believe both CO and CO2 are the same entity. The confusion is understandable as the abbreviations and names are alike, and they are both frequently advertised as ‘silent killers,’ which is true.

Both gases are invisible, cannot be smelt, and are highly dangerous, so comprehending their differences is very important.

Where Does CO2 Come from?

The earth naturally produces CO2 gas, and it is seldom made by humans, apart from when the body emits it because of cellular metabolism. It is most frequently produced from the decomposition of organic matter, human respiration, burning fossil fuels, and fermentation.

As an example, the levels of CO2 in weekly conference room meetings will strongly increase when the door is shut, and people begin to breathe and talk. Another example is when vegetables and fruits start to decompose within the garbage can.

Liquid and solid carbon dioxide, referred to as dry ice, are frequently utilized as refrigerants in the food and beverage field.

Where Does Carbon Monoxide Come from?

In contrast, CO is entirely human-made and does not manifest naturally in the environment like CO2. It is one of six key pollutants controlled in the United States and most other countries across the globe.

The amount of CO found internationally can vary depending on the time of year and country. In Africa, for example, a greater amount of CO is generated when there are more agricultural burnings for farming due to fires releasing a strong amount of carbon monoxide.

In alternative regions of the world, such as the US and Eastern China, the greatest CO concentrations can be found near urban areas because of industrial factories and vehicle emissions. CO is released most frequently when the combustion of fossil fuels like coal, gasoline, and oil is incomplete.

CO and CO2 are present in the home, workplace, and other locations visited by people every day. Understanding where leakages and concentrations can happen is very critical for overall health and safety.

Identifying the warning signs and dangers of gas poisoning can result in precautionary measures being taken, which could potentially save lives.

Can You Detect CO with a CO2 Detector?

CO2 detectors commonly use infrared sensors to measure gas levels, while CO sensors mostly use electrochemical sensors, so CO2 detectors cannot detect CO.

An additional factor to take into account is the flammability CO2 and CO under certain circumstances. CO can be a flammable gas in concentrations of a higher density, and the equipment that analyzes carbon monoxide in these concentrations are usually explosion-proof.

Fortunately, CO2 is a non-flammable, inert gas with no explosive characteristics.

Negative Health Effects Associated With Carbon Monoxide and Carbon Dioxide

Another mainstream misconception is that it is impossible to distinguish the level at which CO and CO2 become deadly. This is a fatal error. Incorrect information can be just as harmful as the gases themselves.

OSHA outlines that the danger levels for CO begin at 35 ppm, and for CO2, this begins at 5,000 parts per million time weighted average.

It is critical to understand the respective hazardous concentrations when identifying these gases to detect them accurately.

One important action to take is to increase both the understanding and education of the symptoms of both gases and how they are different from each other, to individuals, families, and employees, to be prepared in case of an emergency.

Standard symptoms of CO2 exposure are shortness of breath, muscle tremors, fatigue, sweating, and increased heart rate, a narrowed field of vision, and decreased focus.

The symptoms of CO exposure manifest when CO starts to build up in the bloodstream. When an excess of carbon monoxide is in the air, the oxygen in red blood cells is replaced with CO.

Symptoms may include blurred vision, confusion, chest pain, vomiting, upset stomach, weakness, dizziness, and headache. CO poisoning can be highly dangerous to those who are sleeping due to its subtlety. Some people may die or experience brain damage before waking up.

What should I do if I suspect CO poisoning?

If carbon monoxide poisoning is suspected, the best course of action is to get fresh air by immediately going outside. Non-electrical appliances should be turned off, and doors should be left open on the way out.

It is important to remember that carbon monoxide cannot be seen or smelt, and 911 should be notified if poisoning is suspected.

What should I do if I suspect CO2 poisoning?

It is possible for a harmful level of CO2 to build up in an enclosed area under certain circumstances, although CO2 leaks are not commonplace.

The symptoms of CO2 poisoning are different from those of CO2, which makes them quicker to identify. If the initial symptoms of CO2 poisoning are suspected, it is suggested to go outside or leave the area.

Importance of Gas Detection

While carbon monoxide is a combustible gas, it introduces further dangers outside of explosions. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) tells employers to take safety measures to shield their employees from workplace-related carbon monoxide.

It is crucial to track levels of CO in the winter months, particularly in colder environments. Carbon monoxide poisoning results in casualties each year, normally when fuel-burning tools and equipment are used in small spaces that lack adequate ventilation.

The Difference between Carbon Monoxide and Carbon Dioxide Detection

Image Credit: GasLab

Carbon monoxide can build up to harmful concentrations when doors or windows are shut to keep out the cold air, which is particularly prevalent in industries that produce a high amount of carbon monoxide such as in mining, ice rinks, auto shops, and more.

One way of measuring the levels of gas is to utilize gas devices or sensors that identify harmful levels of carbon monoxide. The SAN-30 is provided by GasLab for individual protection.

The Difference between Carbon Monoxide and Carbon Dioxide Detection

Image Credit: GasLab

The SAN-30 is a rechargeable, wearable, and personal carbon monoxide safety monitor that analyzes the CO levels in the air in real-time. It has a large LCD screen that presents CO, temperature, %RH, and battery life.

The SAN-30 can be calibrated simply utilizing ambient air, and the battery lasts for over 12 hours before needing recharging. Using the SAN-30 is a convenient technique for monitoring combustible gases like CO, as the device clips easily onto clothes.

An additional dependable technique for identifying CO is the GasLab Plus Carbon Monoxide Detector. A handheld device, this gas analyzer has electrochemical sensing technology, a large back-lit LCD screen, an audible alarm, provides data logging, and much more.

There is a specific relationship between low concentrations of oxygen and higher concentrations of CO2 in many enclosed spaces.

Not only is carbon dioxide emitted by the body through respiration, but the gas in liquid and solid form is additionally utilized in multiple industries as a refrigerant. It is specifically found in the wine, beer, and cannabis industries.

Oxygen depletion is caused by a higher amount of CO2, which means that it can quickly become hazardous to breathe the air in the room.

If one waits until the oxygen deficiency alarm is triggered and the deficiency is a result of too much CO2, it could mean that the levels of CO2 are already at harmful levels.

Occupational Health and Safety states that, “Besides displacing the oxygen in fresh air, high concentrations of CO2 may exacerbate or worsen the symptoms related to oxygen deficiency and interfere with successful resuscitation. Even moderately elevated concentrations associated with poorly ventilated indoor spaces can produce physiological symptoms.

To counter this problem and to efficiently alert the user when the level of carbon dioxide has reached high concentrations, GasLab provides the GasLab Plus Multi-Gas Detector. This device is not only beneficial for fields that handle various forms of CO2 but can also be helpful in any restricted workplace with poor ventilation.

GasLab provides CO2 Storage Safety Alarms to guard customers and staff against bulk carbon dioxide systems, for example, those in bars, restaurants, breweries, or any location that stores carbon dioxide.

This gas analyzer consists of a wired CO2 monitor and remote display, and adheres to all the local fire codes, along with OSHA and NIOSH requirements.

The Difference between Carbon Monoxide and Carbon Dioxide Detection

Image Credit: GasLab

What is the Proper Height for a CO2 or CO Sensor?

After selecting the correct safety device, it should be positioned towards the ceiling so they can effectively identify dangerous levels of CO, as CO gas is lighter than air.

In contrast, CO2 gas is heavier than air and moves in the direction of the floor, so CO2 Monitors like the RAD-0102-6 must always be positioned 18 inches above the floor to measure increased levels of CO2 and to maintain safety.

Regardless of the industry, overexposure and leaks of these gases can happen on any day and at any time. The ability to stop possible injuries from happening is the most effective preventative action that can be taken.

Don’t Wait to Protect Yourself

GasLab urges customers not to wait until it is too late. It is never too early to begin taking precautions in regards to CO and CO2. The old saying ‘better safe than sorry’ is true for many elements of life but is particularly accurate in the case of gas detection. Effective preparations can save lives.

References and Further Reading

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by GasLab.

For more information on this source, please visit GasLab.


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