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ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH CONCERNS AND TOXIC CHEMICALS WHERE YOU LIVE, WORK, AND PLAY

Carbon Dioxide

What is it?

Carbon dioxide 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: Power Plants Trash Vehicles and Engines Air Pollution Factories

Where is Carbon Dioxide found?

  • Consumer products - dry ice, gasoline, and carbonated beverages such as soda and beer
  • Air - indoor and outdoor air, emitted by burning coal, oil, gasoline, and natural gas
  • Natural environment - when volcanoes erupt or trees are cut down

How can I be exposed to Carbon Dioxide?

Carbon Dioxide commonly enter(s) the body through:

Inhalation
Inhalation (breathing)
  • Breathing indoor and outdoor air, vehicle exhaust, and fumes from heating or cooking
Touching
Skin contact
  • Touching dry ice

What happens to when I am exposed to Carbon Dioxide?

Short-term:

Exposure to high carbon dioxide levels 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:

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
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