Is carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide worse for humans?



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    Both carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide are dangerous, but for different reasons. Carbon dioxide is associated with global warming, because its increased presence in the atmosphere. Fifty years ago carbon dioxide was 280 parts per million by volume, whereas today it is measured at 385 parts per million by volume. People burning fuels like oil, natural gas, and especially coal have caused the increase in carbon dioxide. While carbon dioxide is partially responsible for global warming, it is in no way an inherent evil or dangerous compound. For instance, carbon dioxide is a byproduct of cellular respiration and life on earth depends on plants getting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. For example, according to my Stanford website source, a stuffy room can be about 5% carbon dioxide before humans become uncomfortable. Amounts above 800 ppm are unhealthy and above 5000 ppm are very unhealthy and amounts above 50000 ppm are considered hazardous to life as we know it. 

    On the other hand, carbon monoxide is a poison which is formed by “incomplete combustion” (Stanford) when there isn’t enough oxygen to make carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide is produced. That happens when things are burned in a confined space. When humans breathe in carbon monoxide it binds to hemoglobin in the blood and prevents oxygen from getting to the blood, therefore causing suffocation. Depending on the amount of carbon monoxide it can take either a long time at a low concentration to kill you or at a high concentration for a short time. Cars, gas appliances, wood stoves, and cigarettes in a confined space can all produce carbon monoxide. 

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