What is the Difference Between Carbon Monoxide and Carbon Dioxide - ADS Security

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What is the Difference Between Carbon Monoxide and Carbon Dioxide

Often confused as the same gas, carbon monoxide (CO) and carbon dioxide (CO2) might not seem drastically different. But they’re two completely different gases that can have negative effects on our bodies. It’s essential to know the difference between carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide and react quickly if there’s ever a gas leak in your home.

What is Carbon Dioxide?

On a very basic chemical overview, carbon dioxide contains one carbon atom and two oxygen atoms. It is a colorless and odorless gas that exists naturally in our Earth’s atmosphere. We breathe oxygen, while other organisms, such as trees, breathe CO2. So you’re around the gas every day of your life.

Humans also emit CO2 synthetically by driving cars, burning wood, lighting stoves or fireplaces, etc. There could also be CO2 canisters in your refrigerator to help keep your items cool. When concentrated in high amounts, CO2 can lead to asphyxiation or even death.

What is Carbon Monoxide

Unlike CO2, carbon monoxide only has one oxygen atom and one carbon atom. CO does not occur naturally in the environment and is a man-made substance. Carbon monoxide is pumped into most modern homes and used for all sorts of items, such as dryers, heaters, fireplaces, grills, etc.

CO is a colorless and odorless gas. Your gas pipes release Mercaptan, which gives off a sulfur/rotten eggs smell, whenever there is a leak,. If you ever experience that off-putting smell, it probably means there is a CO leak somewhere inside.

Perhaps the biggest difference between the compounds is CO is a flammable gas. As CO releases into the air, it oxidizes, which makes it flammable. A CO gas leak is both a fire safety and health safety hazard, which is why it’s essential to leave the property immediately and to not turn on any plug-in electronics if there’s ever a leak.  

The Effects of CO and CO2

CO and CO2 poisoning occur when these compounds build up in your bloodstream. Your body replaces the oxygen in your blood with CO or CO2 causing damage to your tissue. In high enough concentrations, both gases can be deadly. However, CO poisoning can happen at far a far less concentration level than CO2.  

The onset of CO poisoning symptoms start around 30 parts per million (ppm) and becomes incredibly dangerous at around 100 ppm. CO levels around 150-200 ppm can lead to serious symptoms or even death.

CO2 concentration levels are generally safe up to 30,000 ppm. Anything over 40,000 pm is considered an immediate risk to your health and safety and could become deadly. Note: These estimates are for adults, so these levels may not be exact for children or animals.

The symptoms for CO and CO2 poisoning are generally the same. These include:






At higher levels, the symptoms become more severe:

-Nausea/ vomiting

-Shortness of breath

-Blurred vision

-Loss of consciousness


If you ever smell gas in your home and start experiencing any of these symptoms, please vacate the premises immediately and call your gas provider.

How to Protect Against CO and CO2 Poisoning

The best remedy against CO and CO2 poisoning is to have fire and carbon monoxide detectors throughout your home. When placed in key areas, such as your kitchen, basement, fireplace area, and bedrooms, these devices can immediately alert you if there is a gas leak in your home, even before you can smell the danger. And if you’re away, you can receive alerts to your smartphone that there is a gas leak, so you can call your local gas provider without even being there.

At ADS Security, we provide and install security solutions that help keep families and loved-ones safe. If you would like to learn more about the solutions we provide, feel free to visit our website or contact us today.

Categories: Family, Safety


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