Gov. Office Status
Skip to main content

Carbon Dioxide

What is Carbon Dioxide?

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a colorless gas. In its solid form, it is used as dry ice. It can be found in spring water and is released when volcanoes erupt, trees are cut down, or fossil fuels and products made from them such as oil, gasoline, and natural gas are burned.

Carbon dioxide is used in refrigeration, carbonation of beverages, and production of fertilizers.

Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.

See also: Factories Trash Vehicles and Engines Power Plants Air Pollution

Where is Carbon Dioxide found?

  • Consumer products - dry ice, gasoline, and carbonated beverages such as soda and beer contain carbon dioxide
  • Air - indoor and outdoor air, polluted with carbon dioxide from burning coal, oil, gasoline, and natural gas
  • Natural environment - when volcanoes erupt or trees are cut down or burned in forest fires they emit carbon dioxide

How can I be exposed to Carbon Dioxide?

Carbon Dioxide commonly enter(s) the body through:


Inhalation (breathing)

  • Breathing indoor and outdoor air, vehicle exhaust, and fumes from heating or cooking

Skin contact

  • Touching dry ice

What happens when I am exposed to Carbon Dioxide?

Short-term to exposure to high levels:

Exposure can cause:

  • Suffocation by displacement of air
  • Incapacitation and unconsciousness
  • Headaches
  • Vertigo and double vision
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Tinnitus
  • Seizures

Breathing in high amounts of carbon dioxide may be life-threatening.

Touching liquid carbon dioxide can cause:

  • Frostbite or blisters

Long-term exposure:

Prolonged exposure to carbon dioxide may cause:

  • Changes in bone calcium
  • Changes in body metabolism

Who is at risk for exposure to Carbon Dioxide?

  • Consumers
    • Some consumer products and fuels contain or emit carbon dioxide.
  • Farmers
    • Some fertilizers emit carbon dioxide.

Reduce your risk

If you think your health has been affected by exposure to carbon dioxide, contact your health care professional. 

Always wash your hands thoroughly after handling chemicals. For poisoning emergencies or questions about possible poisons, please contact your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.

  • Do you use fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas, or oil for heating or cooking?
  • How frequently are you exposed to vehicle exhaust or gas stations?
  • Do you live near a busy highway?
  • Limit your use of fossil fuels.
  • Avoid use of carbon dioxide in confined spaces.
  • Use proper ventilation in areas where carbon dioxide vapor or gas may accumulate.
  • Avoid direct contact with dry ice.
  • Don’t let children play near gas stations, idling cars, or busy highways.

National Library of Medicine Resources and Databases

  • Carbon Dioxide. Haz-Map
    Information about the dangers of carbon dioxide from an occupational health database designed for health and safety professionals and consumers seeking information about the adverse effects of workplace exposures to chemical and biological agents.

Additional Resources

  • Overview of Greenhouse Gases
    Environmental Protection Agency
    Information on the environmental impact of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, with a focus on sources and ways to reduce four specific greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gas.
Back to top