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Friday, November 25, 2005

Carbon Dioxide Poisoning 

A brief pause before I start using the term "fascist" in Ontario Vineyard Village Association press releases. Heck, might as well.

I probably should have started this research before writing the latest OVVA press release (which, if you haven't yet seen it, calls for a ban on carbon dioxide emissions in Ontario, California). Yet, can you imagine how an unscrupulous organization can take the true stories about carbon dioxide poisoning, and turn them into impassioned calls for a ban on exhaling?

Anyway, for those who are interested (probably only myself), here's some information on carbon dioxide poisoning.

From Emergency Medicine:

A 50-year-old medical researcher was discovered unconscious in a large walk-in refrigerator containing 15 large blocks of dry ice. The dry ice had been stored in the 39.2° F refrigerator at approximately 9:00 A.M. that day, and the researcher had last been seen at around noon; at least three hours, therefore, had elapsed between storage and exposure. There were no signs of struggle, and the victim had no history of psychiatric disorders, recent personal crises, or medical illnesses. At investigation of the scene, the blocks of dry ice appeared grossly intact, but the external ventilation system was nonfunctional. Additional investigation confirmed that ambient carbon dioxide (CO2) was at a life-threatening concentration....

Occupational exposure to CO2 is widespread. The gas is used in carbonation of soft drinks and as a shielding gas for welding. Carbon dioxide is produced when organic material decomposes or ferments, and asphyxiation from CO2 exposure has occurred in workers entering grain elevators, the holds of cargo ships, and brewery vats. In the past, miners would lower candles or mice into caves before entering, to guard against the "black damp"--oxidation of carbonaceous material to CO2, a process that both requires and depletes environmental oxygen.

Compressed CO2 gas is widely used as a fire extinguisher because of its ability to safely displace oxygen from the atmosphere surrounding a fire. When the gas is used in a closed space such as an airplane, however, that property may prove lethal. Dry ice is often used to generate artificial smoke for stage productions and is widely used in the biomedical and transportation industries. Storage of dry ice in closed spaces, such as submarines and automobiles, has proved hazardous in the past, although the patient in this case may not have known that the walk-in refrigerator did not have a functioning ventilation system....

From eMedicine:

Carbon dioxide build-up when diving is the result of inadequate ventilation. It is often caused by inadequate breathing, a tight wetsuit, overexertion, regulator malfunction, deep diving, and contamination of the air supply with exhaled gases. As a result, carbon dioxide levels in the blood can increase, causing shortness of breath and sedation.

From an old Usenet post by Steve Harris, MD:

...Humans don't have good hypoxia sensors, and people have walked into nitrogen filled rooms and died, before they even realized there was anything wrong. You can breathe into a closed circuit which takes out the CO2 until you pass out from hypoxia, without much discomfort at all. On the other hand, in a submarine or someplace where CO2 is building up but there's plenty of oxygen, it's intensely uncomfortable, and feels like dying. So does breathing that 5% CO2 95% O2 medical mix they treat CO victims with.

And when the CO2 hits about 7% to 10% of your ambient air, you DO die. Even if the rest is O2. It's CO2 narcosis, and it shuts you down. 5% CO2 is about 40 Torr, your normal blood level. So if you breath that, you go up to 80 Torr, enough to black you out unless you hyperventilate. Double your minute volume and you can get down to 60 Torr, but you feel crumby. At 10% there's no way to keep below about 90 Torr, and (unless you're a chronic COPD patient who's used to high CO2s and has a high bicarb and other compensatory mechanisms) you black out. Then quit hyperventilating. Then quit breathing entirely....

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

And here's a semi-related item from the National Anxiety Center:

In June, a proposal for a tax on the flatulence released by New Zealand’s cattle and sheep was proposed. It would raise $4.9 million to fund research into ways of minimizing the impact it was claimed to have on the Earth’s climate. No doubt a ban on exhaling is next.
It could happen. Here's what the Natural Resources Defense Council says:

Scientific evidence continues to accumulate that global warming is happening now and that we must act quickly to curb the emissions that are causing it. The Bush administration's failure to address emissions of carbon dioxide and other global warming pollutants is out of sync with scientific and economic reality.

The National Academy of Sciences, in a 2001 study requested by President Bush himself, found that emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants have already raised average worldwide temperatures by about 1 degree Fahrenheit over the last century....According to the administration's 2002 Climate Action Report, average U.S. temperatures could rise another 3 degrees to 9 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century -- with far-reaching effects....

If we don't want to reach levels that trigger irreversible damage, we must limit how much carbon emissions we put into the atmosphere over the next decades. So that gives us a choice: the more carbon pollution we put in the air now, the less we'll be able to put there later. Delaying action now will only force more rapid, and more expensive, reductions later. Unrestrained emissions growth is locking us into two bad choices -- either dangerously high carbon dioxide levels or crash reductions later....

Thanks for the info. I'm sufficiently scared now!
Don't hold your breath. Please.
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