Danger of Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide, with the chemical formula CO, is a colorless, odorless and tasteless, yet highly toxic gas. Its molecules consist of one carbon atom and one oxygen atom, connected by a covalent triple bond. It is the simplest oxocarbon, and can be viewed as the anhydride of formic acid (CO2H2).

Carbon monoxide is produced from the partial oxidation of carbon-containing compounds; it forms in preference to the more usual carbon dioxide (CO2) when there is a reduced availability of oxygen, such as when operating a stove or an internal combustion engine in an enclosed space. Carbon monoxide has significant fuel value, burning in air with a characteristic blue flame, producing carbon dioxide. Despite its serious toxicity, it was once widely used (as the main component of coal gas) for domestic lighting, cooking and heating, and in the production of nickel. Carbon monoxide still plays a major role in modern technology, in industrial processes such as iron smelting and as a precursor to myriad products.


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