Carbon Monoxide

Carbon Monoxide

How Much Carbon Monoxide Does It Take To Kill You? Not Much!

Carbon monoxide is often called the “silent killer,” although the term “invisible killer” might be better. (What gas makes a noise when it kills you anyway?)

Carbon monoxide, like carbon dioxide, is colorless, odorless, and doesn’t irritate the skin. It’s undetectable to our feeble human senses. It is, however, a very different animal from CO2, its chemical cousin. 

The problem with carbon monoxide is that the hemoglobin in your red blood cells loves it. If given a choice, it will lap it up in preference to oxygen every time, slowly saturating the blood. 

If just a few red blood cells grab hold of hemoglobin, it’s no big deal: you still have plenty of capacity to take up oxygen. If, however, all your red blood cells take it up, then you don’t have any left to deliver the oxygen your cells need. Man cannot live by carbon monoxide alone. In fact, he can’t live by it at all. 

Most people are surprised to discover just how little carbon monoxide it takes to cause them serious harm and even kill them. Carbon monoxide concentrations are measured in parts per million, but that belies the danger. You hardly need any of the stuff to ruin your day. 

As the following infographic shows, just 75 parts per million exposes you to the level experienced by a heavy smoker. Go above 400 parts per million, and you’ll experience dementia, hallucinations, and even worse. 

Do you know what levels of carbon monoxide are safe? Check out the following infographic for the rundown. 


Infographic by All the Stuff