Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless gas that is very stable and has a life of 2 to 4 months in the atmosphere [28]. Similar to organic compounds, it is formed when fuel is not burned completely. It is a component of motor vehicle exhaust, which contributes about 60% of all CO emissions nationwide [29]. High concentrations of CO occur in areas with heavy traffic congestion where as much as 95% of all CO emissions may come from automobile exhaust. Other sources include industrial processes, non-transportation fuel combustion, and natural sources such as wildfires. Carbon monoxide emissions from coal-fired boilers are generally low. Like organic hydrocarbon emissions, CO can be formed during system startup or upset. Also, systems with good combustion control, which is typical of power generation plants, produce little CO.

Environmental Effects

Carbon monoxide appears to have no detrimental effects on material surfaces

[28]. Experiments have not shown that CO at ambient concentrations produces harmful effects on plant life. Carbon monoxide has been found to be a minor participant in photochemical reactions leading to ozone formation.

Health Effects

High concentrations of CO can cause physiological and pathological changes and ultimately death. Carbon monoxide enters the bloodstream through the lungs and reduces the delivery of oxygen to the body's organs and tissues

[29]. The health threat from lower levels of CO is most serious for those who suffer from cardiovascular disease, such as angina pectoris. At much higher levels of exposure, CO can be poisonous and even healthy individuals can be affected. Visual impairment, reduced work capacity, reduced manual dexterity, poor learning ability, and difficulty in performing complex tasks are all associated with exposure to elevated CO levels.

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