How Carbon Dioxide Affects Your Environmental Health

When talking about carbon dioxide it is common to immediately remember of discussions on climate change and environmental problems as this compound are constantly mentioned as one of the major villains of global warming. The concerning effects of the increase in atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide have been extensively discussed in media and newspapers as scientists struggle to deal with a constantly increasing ppm (parts per million) levels in the atmosphere. However, carbon dioxide is not just an industrial problem and several appliances and devices are responsible for contributing to this emission process. Moreover, emissions in your environment can rapidly exceed the toxic levels for humans and create problems for you’re the health of its occupants.

What is Carbon Dioxide?

Carbon dioxide is a colorless gas that is naturally produced in combustion processes as the result of what is known as complete combustion. Being a highly stable molecule, carbon dioxide found in the atmosphere can come from natural processes like the decay of organic materials, emissions of volcanoes, hot springs, and geysers. Additionally, carbon dioxide can be produced by what is called anthropological sources, which are emissions released by man-made processes. Among the several activities that release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the combustion of wood, coal petroleum and natural gas are the most common examples in urban areas.

In recent years, carbon dioxide has become an environmental concern as the increase in its concentration in the atmosphere has promoted the slow increase in average temperatures worldwide, contributing to what is become known as the “greenhouse effect”. However, inside your environment, it can be found in food, beverages, wines, fire extinguishers, refrigerators, and others. A strong combined effort of industry and research has been carried out to slowly substitute sources and uses of CO2 in all industrial and home applications.

Where does CO2 come from?

CO2 is a natural product of combustion processes, which means that inside your environment it will be naturally released in any process of cooking or heating up. Common sources of CO2 emissions inside your environment are: clothes dryers, water heaters, boilers, fireplaces, motor vehicles, gas stoves, wood-burning, wood stoves, power tools, lawn equipment and others.

In some more specific cases, CO2 might be emitted from wells and other pipes that run through your environment and allow for transportation of the gas from natural sources or industries that leak the gas into your housing indirectly. In these cases, evaluation of pipelines should be carried out seeking to identify the potential sources of CO2 contamination.

What are the health effects of CO2 poisoning?

Due to its high density, CO2 tends to migrate to lower altitudes in the atmosphere and concentrations are elevated at ground level. Additionally, due to its colorless and odorless properties, contamination by CO2 can go unnoticed until exposure reaches deadly levels. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), concentrations of 1% in the atmosphere will lead to fatigue and hard breathing, concentrations of 7 – 10% will lead to asphyxiation, which happens as a gradual process starting with dizziness, headaches, visual and hearing impairments and finally unconsciousness.

In cases of long-term exposure, as in occupational exposure, the limit established for an 8-hour period is 0.5% but cases of headaches, lethargy, irritation and sleep deprivation were already noted. Also, after a couple of months, cases of kidney calcification and bone loss has been reported. Therefore, it becomes important to identify and measure the levels of CO2 in the indoor environment to ensure that it is within safe measures or preferably not present at all.

How can I control CO2 levels in my environment?

As a CO2 is found in gaseous form, the concentration of this compound can drastically decrease when proper ventilation is carried out. In the cases of suspected CO2 contamination, it is recommended that immediate increase in ventilation and air renovation be carried out in the rooms and spaces of the environment. Allowing for natural ventilation by opening windows and doors tends to rapidly dissipate the CO2 concentration allowing for the source of the issue to be evaluated.

As preventive measures to avoid increase of CO2 levels in the environment, it is recommended to:

  • Properly clean fireplaces and wood burning areas allowing for proper ventilation
  • Install exhaustion fans in cooking areas and where combustion is promoted
  • Keep clothes driers in a ventilated area
  • Do not operate machines in the environment without proper ventilation
  • Do not turn on cars and motor vehicles inside closed garages
  • Avoid smoking in closed environments
  • Regularly replace air filters in your environment

How can IAQ help?

Keeping track of CO2 levels inside your environment can be quite challenging as the gas is colorless and normally presents no smell. In fact, your environment can be exposed to dangerous levels of CO2 leading to long-term health effects for long periods before any incidence or health issue appears. Therefore, keeping track of CO2 levels as a periodical assessment is of crucial importance to ensure your environmental health.

In this case, IAQ is equipped with technicians that are highly qualified to operate sensors and high-tech detectors that can immediately indicate the CO2 level in your environment. Moreover, with over 10 years of experience in the field, IAQ has developed highly specific expertise that is capable of pinpointing the sources of contamination in your environment providing with an elaborate report that will help you address and correct and source of emission that might be compromising the security of your family.

Finally, with the ability to carry out a complete assessment of your Indoor Air Quality, IAQ is able to provide a detailed description of the chemical compounds that are found in your environment, suggesting their sources and corrective measures to be carried out by specialized teams or even yourself. IAQ is committed to ensuring that your environment is a safe place for you and your family keeping in mind the comfort and security of all the environment’s occupants.

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