CO2 Safety Concerns — What Should I Be Aware of?
Carbon Dioxide (written as CO2 in its chemical formula) is one of the few gases in Earth’s atmosphere that are essential to nearly all living things. With it playing an important role in the carbon cycle, plants are able to perform photosynthesis, allowing humans and all sorts of other plants and animals, to stay alive. While it is a natural gas, carbon dioxide can accomplish amazing things in many occupational fields. Medical, food, entertainment, and farming industries take great advantage of this gas in its three states of matter. Although it can be used in a variety of different applications, are there are some precautions worth noting before using the gas.
Safety Concerns for Liquid, Solid and Gaseous CO2
Solid carbon dioxide (which is dry ice) and liquid carbon dioxide are mostly meant for refrigeration and cooling. You must never under any circumstances touch CO2 at either of these two states, as liquid and solid carbon dioxide is dangerously cold. Doing so can cause instantaneous frostbite. With that being said, the safest thing you can do when handling or working with either dry ice or liquid CO2 is wear waterproof cryogen gloves. These are great for all sorts cryogen gases too, such as liquid oxygen or liquid nitrogen. Wear these, and solid and liquid CO2 can be safe to use.
CO2 in its gaseous state is much different from its other two states of matter. Gaseous CO2 has tons of purposes. Surgery, soda carbonation, special effects, assisted photosynthesis, and cannabis growth increase just to name a few. The one thing you want to be aware of the most is how much of it is in the air. You can control how much gets in the air, but you also want to avoid getting too much of it in the area. This is easily done with how careful you are with CO2 cylinders. These storage devices hold carbon dioxide in its liquid form and can output the gas as either as gas or a liquid. You want to take special care of your cylinder to avoid any accidental leaks. CO2 leaks usually happen because of unnecessary damages or blemishes dealt to the cylinder. Something as minor as a dent or a small burn mark can cause leakage. You can very easily avoid any potential leaks from happening by being aware of how the cylinder is stored.
Transporting CO2 Cylinders
If you are transporting a CO2 cylinder from point A to point B, you want to keep it stored in the upright position and in a spot where it won’t roll around or bump into anything. Keeping an eye on the area’s temperature is important too, as CO2 cylinders will react to unnecessary heat exposure. All of this can keep your cylinder intact and you won’t need to worry about any leaks. If the CO2 cylinder is in use, it must be kept in a position that won’t get it knocked over, like the upright position as mentioned before. Another very important thing to keep in mind is that as long as the cylinder being put under operation, you must keep a CO2 regulator connected to it at all times. Failure to do so can potentially cause an explosion! Severe injuries and even death can occur very easily. That’s why there are tools that assist with proper cylinder storage and handling. Using wall mounts and cylinder safety stands can really help the cylinder stand steady. A few of these safety measures are actually basic OSHA regulations. In fact, those regulations are ideal for not only CO2 cylinders, but even for helium, nitrogen, propane, oxygen, and other many specialty gas cylinders.
When CO2 Leaks Occur
If for any reason a CO2 leak does occur, it can leave a negative effect in the air around us. Carbon dioxide is commonly associated with photosynthesis and breathing. We inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. While a little bit of this gas existing in the ambient air around us is healthy, too much of it isn’t safe. Now, no human being or animal can create an overabundance of carbon dioxide by simply breathing, and you won’t get exposed to extreme amounts of CO2 in natural environments. It is, however, more likely to happen in more industrial or urban settings.
Unusual amounts of carbon dioxide in the air can displace oxygen, meaning oxygen is moved out of the way in place of CO2. Being in an environment like this can cause some terrible side effects to one’s health. The least threatening thing that can happen is drowsiness, dizziness, or mild sickness. In worse cases, you can experience asphyxiation, which is the medical term for oxygen deprivation. This can cause an increase in breathing speed, as your body is trying to gasp for air and get what little oxygen is left. Headaches, nausea, and vomiting are very possible because of this. In extreme cases, ridiculously high CO2 pressure can result in brain damage, a coma, or even death.
Obviously, these side effects aren’t something you would want to ignore. Make sure you have a practical evacuation route for emergency situations like this and everyone follows the plan as quickly as possible. You will want to do the same if your CO2 cylinder manages to get damaged while in use. If at all possible, try to close the main valve as soon as you can. Just by following these few procedures, keeping indoor areas free from high concentrations of CO2 and preventing any damage towards your CO2 cylinder, you can literally save lives and prevent any unnecessary injuries from happening.