Crowcon - Detecting Gas Saving Lives
17 May 2022
Understanding Air Pollutants: A Guide to Carbon Monoxide (CO)
Callum Stacey
Marketing Executive

What is Carbon Monoxide (CO)

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odourless, colourless, and tasteless but dangerous gas that primarily contributes to air pollution. The gas is made up of carbon and oxygen and is highly toxic, capable of causing acute illness and death in the most severe cases.


Carbon Monoxide (CO) is formed when materials don’t burn completely; this can occur with the burning of fossil fuels like natural gas, petrol, coal and oil, wood smoke, from car and truck exhausts, as well as through faulty gas heaters, BBQs, ovens, and cooktops.

Carbon monoxide is a significant element of exhaust fumes from road vehicles. These emissions are a source of CO and industrial processes such as petroleum refining, oil and gas extraction, and chemical production.

Common outdoor objects using hydrocarbons as a fuel can also be a source of CO emissions, including some power tools, lawnmowers, generators and open fires.

In the working environment, machinery such as propane-powered forklifts, pressure washers and gas-powered concrete cutters can contribute to the build-up of carbon monoxide in the atmosphere.

Environmental Impact

CO is itself a greenhouse gas. When CO is emitted into the atmosphere, it adds to the amount of greenhouse gases generated, which directly impacts global warming and climate change. As it is a relatively unreactive compound, it does not pose a significant threat to plant life. However, it can be quite harmful to oxygen transport systems in humans and other animals.

Health Impact

If inhaled, CO attaches to the haemoglobin in red blood cells, which generally carry oxygen throughout the body. When CO attaches, it “uses up” the oxygen-carrying capacity of the red blood cell and thus blocks the transport of oxygen the body needs, ultimately causing a wide range of health problems.

Inhaling low levels of carbon monoxide can lead to symptoms including nausea, confusion and disorientation, dizziness and headaches. Regularly breathing at low levels can lead to permanent mental or physical problems.

Very high levels of CO can lead to more severe consequences, including unconsciousness and death. There are around 60 deaths from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning in England and Wales each year. Whilst extreme levels of CO are uncommon outdoors; there is a particular concern for people with pre-existing conditions where the heart needs more oxygen than usual when outdoor levels of carbon monoxide are elevated. The greatest risks are indoors or within tents where CO from burning hydrocarbons can build up.

Sensit by Crowcon RAMP

The Sensit RAMP is a robust, remote and reliable low-cost air quality monitoring platform. The device is capable of monitoring up to five gaseous chemical pollutants including carbon monoxide. The device uses a laser scattering detection method to detect both PM2.5 and PM10 with a range of 1-1000 μg/m3.

The RAMP is suitable for use in a variety of industries including construction, transport, waste, oil and gas, chemical and petrochemical industries.

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