Where Does Carbon Dioxide Come From?

The world is abuzz over climate change. Governments, media and scientists continue to debate the causes and effects of this atmospheric phenomenon. At the center of the issue is carbon dioxide. The increase of its emission levels -- from fossil fuel combustion, for example - is implicated in trapping heat and raising the temperature of the earth. People come down on all sides of this controversy. Few, however, understand the effects this gas has within the walls of their own homes. In-house alarms for carbon monoxide and smoke detection do not alert you or your loved ones to this other, unnoticed hazard.

Sources of Carbon Dioxide

While the burining of oil, coal and gas has lifted atmospheric CO2, there has always been a presence of this compound in the great outdoors. Volcanic eruptions and wildfires are two prime examples. Wildlife respiration is yet another point of supply. In fact, anything that breathes oxygen releases this gas. The beasts of the jungle; the fauna on the plains; livestock on the farm; and yes, humans too are emitters of carbon dioxide. This, of course, raises an important question: if this "greenhouse gas" is a problem for the outdoor environment, what impact does it make on the indoor environment?

CO2 Significance in Houses and Buildings

Elevated levels are observed to induce headaches, nausea and dizziness, to name a few symptoms. At an extreme, this carbon compound can inhibit healthy respiration, even to the point of asphyxiation -- rare, perhaps, but possible. Other research points to cognitive decline and reduced bone density as ramifications of its build-up. Most home and building dwellers recognize the dangers of other volatile organic compounds emitted by fresh paint, varnish or deteriorating asbestos. Given the odorless, colorless nature of carbon dioxide, the same people are less likely to mitigate it.

When Do Levels Become Unhealthy?

Since this gas is much less discernible by the senses, humans can inhale and exhale it in the normal course of breathing, without any internal alarms warning of danger. While the exact concentration of the gas indicating peril is not standardized, many regulatory agencies set workplace safety standards at 10,000 parts per million (ppm) extending over an eight-hour shift. As the durations of time spent in the facility are adjusted, so too are the thresholds. Shorter periods spent inside a space will allow for higher concentrations. Personal residences are unregulated in this regard.

What Makes Carbon Dioxide Levels Rise Indoors?

As noted above, breathing is a major contibutor. The number of people and pets in a unit will influence how much carbonic gas floats around at any given time. Speaking of which, duration of occupation is another factor influencing compound concentrations. Furthermore, the size of the space determines the diffusion of any gaseous entity. Meanwhile, smoke from tobacco can also boost levels of carbonic acid gas. Very importantly, proper ventilation does much to keep those levels in a healthy position. Worth noting, though, is that even the best ventilation has limits if outdoor carbon is high.

How Is Indoor Atmosphere Measured?

Carb. diox. levels are often measured with digital equipment that take a sort of snapshot of concentrations in the moment. Measurements are used to assess the ventilation, air quality and general comfort of a room or work area. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) maintains guidelines relative to optimal air circulation. In classrooms, for instance, it recommends 15 cubic feet per minute per person of outside air be pumped in (assuming 1,000 square feet and and an occupancy of 35 people). Offices merit more air for fewer people. Again, all of the above factors come to bear on what the right circulation requirements should be.

Knowing for Yourself

Public health officials, safety inspectors and other responsible personnel check institutional buildings' indoor environment on a regular basis. Yet other edifices, houses included, are rarely tested for their carb. diox. content. Not many people realize the importance of doing so. Fewer still realize that inexpensive technology is available to test indoor atmosphere conditions. Now you know...and can do something about it. The Maple CO2 Monitor comes in a number of attractive and unobtrusive casings. This monitor can sit on any steady surface and provide accurate readings with regard to air quality in any room, registering concentrations by means of five different colors. These shades are the products of the internal workings - lamp, light tube, wavelength filter and infrared detector - of the monitor, and reflect gas levels with great precision.

In Summary

An excess of carbon gases is as worrisome inside a house as it is in the planetary atmosphere. Air quality within a structure can decline with every exhale, making good ventilation paramount. The good news is that devices that gauge this are accurate and affordable. The Maple CO2 monitor conveys levels definitively while complementing the attractiveness of any room.


Carbon Dioxide


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