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CO2 Gas and its Sensor

Intro to Carbon Dioxide

Carbon dioxide is a gas consisting of one part carbon and two parts oxygen and is considered a trace gas in the atmosphere at around 400 ppm. Carbon dioxide's highest risk factor in an industrial workplace is that it is an asphyxiant that displaces oxygen from the atmosphere which can lead to hypoxia. Hypoxia occurs due to low levels of oxygen in body tissues and can cause confusion, difficulty breathing, rapid heart rate and can be life-threatening. 

CO2 is an important heat-trapping gas that comes from the burning of fossil fuels, wildfires, and volcanic eruptions. It is a necessary component to Earth since plants use it to produce carbohydrates during photosynthesis. It is harmless at normal levels. It's main uses are: to manufacture other chemicals, food manufacturing and storage, and more. 

Gas Characteristics

  • Colorless
  • Odorless
  • Compressed gas
  • Liquefied gas
  • Contains refrigerated gas
  • Asphyxiant
  • Explosive (if heated)
  • May cause frostbite
  • May increase respiration and heart rate
  • High concentrations can displace oxygen in air and cause suffocation.
  • Confined space hazard: Can accumulate in hazardous amounts in low-lying areas and confined spaces.
  • OTHER NAMES: CO2, liquefied carbon dioxide,  refrigerated carbon dioxide, carbonic, Carbonic Anhydride, R744, Carbon Dioxide USP.
  • CAS 124-38-9

Industrial CO2 hazards and sources

  • Food and beverage processing: Carbon dioxide is produced during the fermentation process and in carbonated drinks.
  • Oil and Gas: Injected into existing oil fields for Enhance Oil Recovery (EOR).
  • Welding: Commonly used as a shielding gas in MIG welding.
  • Agriculture: A result of bacterial decomposition on mushroom farms and manure pits.
  • Pharmaceuticals: Used as a solvent.
  • Construction: CO2 can be used to cure cement and in aggregate manufacturing.
  • Fire prevention: CO2 is used as a fire suppressant.
  • Cleaning of fuel tanks, to suppress sparks and flame.
  • Promoting plant growth in greenhouses.
  • Foaming rubber and plastics.
  • Dry ice and fog machines.
  • Blasting coal.

Headaches, dizziness, confusion, or loss of consciousness are typical symptoms of carbon dioxide exposure.

(Work Safe BC)

High Risk Scenarios

  • CO2 can accumulate in hazardous amounts in low-lying areas especially inside confined spaces.
  • Closed containers can violently rupture when heating contents.
  • In a fire, very toxic amounts of carbon dioxide can be generated.
  • There is an increased risk of fire and explosion when carbon dioxide is exposed to metal power or dusts.
  • High level exposure can cause low productivity and increased sick leave.
  • Specific symptoms include restlessness, drowsiness, increased heart rate and blood pressure, sweating, and headaches.
  • Elevated CO2 levels can cause people to have a harder time learning, performing work tasks, and making decisions.



CO2 Sensor Info

Type: Nondispersive infrared (NDIR)
Range: 0-50,000 ppm (50 ppm resolution)

Default Alarm Levels

Low Alarm: 5,000 ppm
High Alarm:  30,000 ppm
STEL — 15 minute — Short Term Exposure Limit: 30,000 ppm 
TWA  — 8 hour time weighted average: 5,000 ppm 

Blackline devices that can detect CO2

Questions about the detection of CO2?


Special Applications and Considerations

  • CO2 emissions are accumulating in our atmosphere warming earth and causing climate change. Human activities have increased carbon dioxide by 50% in under 200 years.
  • Industrially, carbon dioxide is recovered for many applications from flue gases, as a by-product of the preparation of hydrogen for synthesis of ammonia, from limekilns, amongst others.

Health Risks and Handling of CO2

250- 400 ppm
Normal outdoor levels
400-1000 ppm
Concentration of a typical indoor space
1000 - 5000 ppm
Drowsiness and air quality complaints
5000 ppm
OSHA Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) and ACGIH Threshold LimitValue (TLV) for 8-hour exposure
5000 - 40,000 ppm
Headaches, sleepiness, poor concentration, increased heart rate, and nausea. Air will seem stagnant and stuffy.
40,0000 - 50,000 ppm
Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health (IDLH)
50,000 - 80,000 ppm
Strong respiratory stimulation, dizziness, confusion, headache, shortness of breath
80,000 ppm +
Serious oxygen deprivation, causing brain damage, a coma, or even death
  • Eye Contact from Gas:  may cause mild irritation, immediately flush eye(s) with plenty of water, occasionally lifting the upper and lower eyelids. Check for contacts lenses and remove. Continue to rinse for at least 10 minutes. Direct contact to the liquefied gas can freeze the eye or cause permanent damage. If irritation or pain persists, see a doctor.
  • Inhalation: Low concentrations aren't harmful. Higher concentrations can affect respiratory function and cause excitation followed by depression of the central nervous system. A high concentration can displace oxygen in the air.  If less oxygen is available to breathe the individual may experience symptoms such as rapid breathing, rapid heart rate, clumsiness, emotional upsets and fatigue can result. As less oxygen becomes available, nausea and vomiting, collapse, convulsions, coma and death can occur.
  • Take precautions to ensure your own safety before attempting rescue (e.g., wear appropriate protective equipment). Move individual to fresh air. If breathing is difficult, trained personnel should administer emergency oxygen. Seek medical attention if adverse health effects persist or are severe. If individual is unconscious, place in recovery position, and get medical attention right away. Maintain an open airway, 
  • Skin Contact from Gas: flush with plenty of water. Remove contaminated clothing and thoroughly wash before use again.  Immediately see a doctor, as treatment is often urgent.
  • Direct skin contact with the liquefied gas can cause frostbite. Symptoms include numbness, prickling, and itching. Severe symptoms are a burning sensation and stiffness.  If frostbite occurs, warm up the frozen tissues and seek medical attention.
  • Personal precautions: increase ventilation to the area. Vapour or gas may accumulate in hazardous amounts in low-lying areas especially in a confined space, where ventilation isn't sufficient.
  • Handling: Avoid accidental contact with incompatible chemicals. Ensure the correct pressure regulator is used for cylinder pressure and contents. Keep cylinder upright and protect from damage. Use suitable hand truck to transport cylinders. If used in a confined space, test for oxygen deficiency before and during work.
  • Storing: in a cool, dry, well-ventilated, out of direct sunlight, away from heat and ignition sources, temperature-controlled, secure and separate from work areas, on the ground, or an isolated detached building. 
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Eye protection - wear chemical safety goggles. Skin protection - wear insulated protective clothing. Respiratory protection - up to 4000ppm: (APF=10) Any supplied air respirator, (APF=50) Any self-contained breathing apparatus with a full face piece.
  • Engineering Controls: use local exhaust ventilation, if general ventilation is not adequate to control amount in the air.





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