Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless, poisonous gas. It is slightly lighter than air and can form explosive mixture with air. The chemical name is CO.
Common name: Coal gas, carbon oxide, carbonic oxide, CO.
Carbon monoxide was formerly widely encountered by the public as a constituent of "town" gas, which was used for domestic heating and lighting. Today it is mostly used for metal refining - notably nickel.
Releases to the environment
Carbon monoxide is produced when fuels containing carbon are burnt in conditions where oxygen is limited. Minor sources are power stations and waste incinerators, but petrol engines are the main source of carbon monoxide. However, emissions are 90% lower from cars, which are fitted with catalytic converters. Carbon monoxide concentrations in urban areas are closely related to motor traffic density and to weather conditions. Concentrations can vary greatly during the day reflecting traffic levels and speed.
Impacts on the environment and human health
Carbon monoxide reacts with other pollutants to produce ground-level ozone, which can harm human health, damage buildings and crops. When inhaled, carbon monoxide may cause harm to the blood, brain, heart and the unborn child. In enclosed spaces, exposure to the gas can be life threatening.
Carbon monoxide is on the EU-Commissions EPER list and listed in the PRTR Protocol under the Århus Convention.
CAS NO: 630-08-0