3 Effects of Carbon Monoxide on the Environment

Carbon monoxide: What is it?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless and odorless gas. It is emitted by several combustion sources, including cars, power plants, wildfires, and incinerators, and it is caused by the incomplete combustion of carbon-containing fuels like natural gas, gasoline, or wood.

Our senses are unable to identify CO since it lacks any odor, color, or flavor.

The effects of carbon monoxide on the environment can be all-encompassing affecting our health.

This implies that toxic gas concentrations can accumulate indoors without humans being able to notice the issue until they become ill.

Additionally, when people are ill, their symptoms resemble those of the flu, which might make them miss the early indications of CO poisoning.

The majority of outdoor CO emissions to ambient air nationwide and in cities, in particular, come from mobile sources.

In the atmosphere, photochemical interactions between methane and non-methane hydrocarbons, other volatile organic hydrocarbons, and organic molecules in soil and surface waters can also produce carbon monoxide.

Additionally, several indoor CO sources add to overall exposure. Carbon monoxide can be found in the environment naturally.

It is given out into the atmosphere by erupting volcanoes, forest fire smoke, natural gas from coal mines, and even lightning!

Other naturally occurring sources of carbon monoxide include marine algae, kelp, and seed germination growth.

Marsh gases, also known as methane and created by plants rotting underwater, are another natural source.

Additionally, CO is released into the atmosphere through anthropogenic processes such as the burning of biomass, fossil fuels, trash, industrial processes, and transportation.

Natural sources (oceans, soils, plants, and forest fires), air CH4 oxidation, and various hydrocarbons other than CH4 are additional contributors (NMHC)

Effects of Carbon Monoxide on the Environment

Knowing that everything that affects our environment affects our health here are the following are some of the effects of carbon monoxide on the environment

1. Contribute to Global Warming

Due to its involvement in atmospheric chemical reactions that result in the production of ozone, a gas associated with climate change, CO indirectly contributes to global warming.

CO also has a negligible direct impact on the climate.

CO emission reductions are being thought about as a potential technique to lessen the consequences of global warming since CO is categorized as a short-lived climate-forcing agent for these reasons.

When released into the atmosphere, carbon monoxide has an impact on the number of greenhouse gases.

As land and ocean temperatures rise, ecosystems change, storm activity rises, and other extreme weather events occur, this change in the atmosphere is related to climate change and global warming.

2. Health Effects

Inhaling carbon monoxide poses a serious risk to one’s health. It decreases the blood’s capacity to deliver oxygen throughout the body.

The effects of carbon monoxide on health can vary depending on exposure levels.

Carbon monoxide exposure can result in headaches, exhaustion, shortness of breath, or decreased motor skills at low exposure levels (which could result in difficulty walking).

Carbon monoxide can make people feel lightheaded, experience chest pain, have blurry vision, and have trouble thinking when exposure levels are high or prolonged.

Finally, exposure to carbon monoxide at very high amounts might cause convulsions, unconsciousness, or even death.

The flu-like symptoms of carbon monoxide include headaches, exhaustion, nausea, vertigo, confusion, and irritability.

The effects of prolonged exposure might include vomiting, unconsciousness, brain damage, irregular heartbeat, breathing problems, muscle weakness, abortions, and even death.

It is frequently misdiagnosed since the symptoms resemble so many different conditions.

When CO is inhaled, it combines with hemoglobin and displaces oxygen to form carboxyhemoglobin (COHb), depriving the body’s cells of oxygen.

When compared to oxygen, hemoglobin and CO are attracted to one another around 250 times more strongly.

The brain and heart require a lot of oxygen and are severely harmed by oxygen deprivation.

Because of this, carbon monoxide in any concentration is harmful. Damage that is physical and irreversible may happen.

Even though carbon monoxide is dangerous, it is simple to lower the risk of exposure in the house.

Installing carbon monoxide detectors is the first step in alerting homeowners to dangerous CO levels.

It is best to position these detectors in the corridors outside the bedrooms so that people may hear them at night while they are sleeping.

When the alarm goes off, it’s crucial to quickly exit the house. Fuel-burning appliance upkeep lowers the likelihood that carbon monoxide may enter the house.

Make sure that gas stoves, fireplaces, and furnaces are kept in good working order. Never use anything that needs fuel outside or inside.

It is not recommended to use appliances like grills, fuel-burning camping gear, or power generators inside a house, garage, car, camper, or tent.

Finally, even if the garage door is open, avoid letting vehicles idle inside.

3. Global Impacts

CO does not significantly affect the environment globally. CO can, however, also interact with other air contaminants close to the source of emission.

In the summer, it can either produce dangerous ground-level ozone or Carbon dioxide (CO2), a significant greenhouse gas that aids in trapping heat in our atmosphere, can be produced when it oxidizes.


We have seen from our article that carbon monoxide affects our environment which includes our health and this tells us that we should distance ourselves from what can bring carbon monoxide close to us either by smoking or living unsustainably.

We should strive to maintain a green environment which includes making use of environmentally sustainable energy which would greatly minimize this disastrous form of air pollution.

Effects of Carbon Monoxide on the Environment – FAQs

How does carbon monoxide pollute the earth?

The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is increased when carbon monoxide and atmospheric oxygen combine. This will harm the environment by causing ozone depletion and global warming. Carbon monoxide thus contaminates our surroundings.

Is carbon monoxide a primary pollutant?

Primary air pollutants are those that are created and released from specific sources. Particulates, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, and sulfur oxide are a few examples.

What is the most common source of carbon monoxide?

Cars, trucks, and other machinery that burns fossil fuels are the main emitters of CO in the outdoor air. Numerous things in your home, including gas and kerosene space heaters without vents, leaking chimneys and furnaces, and gas stoves, can all contribute to poor indoor air quality by releasing carbon monoxide (CO).


A passion-driven environmentalist by heart. Lead content writer at EnvironmentGo.
I strive to educate the public about the environment and its problems.
It has always been about nature, we ought to protect not destroy.

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