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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
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    4,710

    Confused breathing too much CO2

    our company has us use CO2 for blowing out things- blowers, heat exchangers, etc.

    I have noticed a couple times that it seems to effect my breathing and there is a smell I cannot describe.

    is there a health issue in breathing too much CO2?

    should something else, nitrogen, be used instead for health, environment and/or cost reason(s)?
    The Food Stamp Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is proud to be distributing the greatest amount of free meals and stamps EVER.
    Meanwhile, the National Park Service, administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior, asks us to "Please Do Not Feed the Animals". Their stated reason for this policy "... the animals become dependent on handouts and will not learn to take care of themselves."
    from an excerpt by Paul Jacob in Sun City, AZ

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    Landis North Carolina
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    528

    co2

    really? never heard of that one. Why co2?awfull cold isnt it? dont know of any health problems.We use them for grease,oil,electrical fires,great for kitchen fires=no messy cleanup(other than what actually burned and smoke damage)however it would be an axphixiant in high enough concentrations as would nitrogen.Wouldnt nitrogen be cheaper?How much is 40cuft of co2 havnt refilled extinguishers in a few years?they got something against nitrogen?Compressed air is fine for blowing out HE's and such just never in refer syst. as im sure you know.Maybe someone else knows something i dont,thats highly likely. look at MSDS(material safety data sheet) they should be readily available(its the law) or easy to find, try national welders website.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    AZ
    Posts
    646
    Both can cause build up and reduce oxygen intake causing asphyxiation. Co2 is heavier than air and N2 is slightly lighter.

    Found this on wikipedia:

    "Nitrogen asphyxiation is an occasional cause of accidental death and a theoretical method of capital punishment. After just two or three breaths of pure nitrogen, the oxygen concentration in the lungs would be low enough for some oxygen already in the bloodstream to exchange back to the lungs and be eliminated by exhalation. Crude simulation of oxygen transport through the lungs and blood stream suggests that the partial pressure of oxygen in arterial blood would be about 50 percent of saturation 1 minute after switching gases and would reach zero within 3 minutes."

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Location
    Chicago, IL
    Posts
    4,432
    All the dust and garbage you're blowing around is way more hazardous than the CO2

  5. #5
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    Oct 2003
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    las vegas
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    1,505
    probably about the same effect as huffing refrigerant

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Location
    Connectitaxed
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    2,644
    Quote Originally Posted by pacnw View Post
    our company has us use CO2 for blowing out things- blowers, heat exchangers, etc.

    I have noticed a couple times that it seems to effect my breathing and there is a smell I cannot describe.

    is there a health issue in breathing too much CO2?

    should something else, nitrogen, be used instead for health, environment and/or cost reason(s)?
    Just tell them to use compressed air for those tasks. It is a whole lot cheaper and you don't have to worry about those issues. As for a dry gas for systems inside to avoid moisture use nitrogen.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    Minnesota
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    1,377
    Quote Originally Posted by pacnw View Post
    our company has us use CO2 for blowing out things- blowers, heat exchangers, etc.

    I have noticed a couple times that it seems to effect my breathing and there is a smell I cannot describe.

    is there a health issue in breathing too much CO2?

    should something else, nitrogen, be used instead for health, environment and/or cost reason(s)?
    Okay, not quite sure why they're choosing CO2 over nitrogen or even compressed air (where applicable). Around where I live and work, CO2 costs more than nitrogen. This might be different elsewhere.

    Generally speaking, CO2 has no smell, but does have a slightly acidic taste. That is not to say you may not smell something when using the gas as described. Unless you're buying technical/scientific grade purity (very expensive), there will be other things mixed in with it. Plus you might smell minute quantities of impurities from oxidized bits of metal from inside the metal cylinder, microscopic bits from hoses and tubing from the machinery to charge and transport the gas, etc. Most commercially sold CO2 gas is gotten as a by product of other chemical processes. Everything from the making of cement, to cracking oil to make gasoline or whatever, to the decomposition of bio-masses such as manure. So yah could be smelling some of that.

    Now, what most people don't know is that without certain minimum amounts of CO2 in the air you breathe ... you will DIE. Simple as that. Your body requires some CO2. Thought I'd throw that in since most folks just hear/read that carbon dioxide is a bad and evil gas.

    Anyway, one problem with CO2 is that it's heavier than the normal gas mixture we call "air". About 150% heavier. So if you're working with large quantities being released around you in a poorly ventilated and/or low area ... use caution.

    "Normal" background outdoor air levels of CO2 run from 250 to 380 ppm (.025% to 038% of the total of all the gases that make up "air"), in low to medium population areas, with few large industrial plants, lots of healthy plant life, etc. A bit higher, 400 to 450 ppm in most cities. No ill effects on human health are measurable in this range.

    380 to 1000 ppm is typical in occupied spaces of buildings with proper ventilation. Medical data suggests there is also no ill effects associated with this concentration range. In my experience, decades of it, occupants never notice anything in this range.

    In the 1000 ppm to 2000 ppm range occupants notice, MIGHT complain about stuffiness or stale air. And may get that drowsy feeling. Not a big deal. If you're married its about the same as sleeping next to your spouse with your faces close. One of the reasons why, after falling asleep, spouses often roll away from each other.

    At 2000 to 5000 ppm, the real problems begin. Headaches may occur, definite feeling of drowsiness or sleepiness, air feels definitely stagnant, concentration/attention becomes increasingly difficult, heart rate goes elevated, and you may start to experience slight nausea.

    At >5000 ppm ... oxygen deprivation sets in, can lead to permanent brain damage, coma, and death. IF ... you're exposed to such levels for lengthy periods. i.e. OSHA set the PEL (Permissible Exposure Limit) for CO2 at 5000 ppm. In short, if exposure at those levels doesn't exceed 8 hours in a work day, you might feel a bit nauseous, heart rate goes up, maybe a head ache, etc ... but no permanent damage should occur. I point this out so that if yah happen to bring an instrument and measure 5000 ppm where you're at ... don't friggin panic and give yourself a heart attack. It'll hurt you ... but only after a considerable time.

    That 5000 ppm works out to be 0.5% of the air by volume, BTW.

    OSHA CEL (Ceiling Exposure Limit) is set at 30,000 ppm (3% of the air you're breathing. Meaning they suggest no more than a 10 minute exposure to those levels.

    Levels of 40,000+ ppm are considered immediately dangerous ... get the heck OUT of where ever you are and don't dally about it. Generally speaking, for a healthy person, in a matter of minutes (10 to 30) you'll become intoxicated, followed by unconsciousness, and finally death. At 90,000+ ... the average is death within 5 minutes.

    More clear?

    Of course, if you have other health issues, problems may occur at lower levels than is the case for normally healthy, average people.

    FWIW, these days I'm in the BAS (Building Automation Systems) biz and so we install monitors and detectors and program controls to control CO2 concentration in structures, among other things. Plus, years ago I was also in the biz of repairing and operating the gear that produced compressed or liquified CO2, nitrogen, oxygen, etc. So I kinda follow these things. The refrigeration gear I used to work on was meant to achieve and maintain -325'F.
    A site where I stash some stuff that might be interesting to some folks.
    http://cid-0554c074ec47c396.office.l...e.aspx/.Public

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Posts
    4,710
    I do not know why they choose it either, probably like everything else, "...just the way we have been doing it and so no reason to change".

    I will bring up the cost thing, as that seems important now.

    the only possible reason would be that we sometimes have to pressure test gas/propane lines, but that is rare.

    Thanks
    The Food Stamp Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is proud to be distributing the greatest amount of free meals and stamps EVER.
    Meanwhile, the National Park Service, administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior, asks us to "Please Do Not Feed the Animals". Their stated reason for this policy "... the animals become dependent on handouts and will not learn to take care of themselves."
    from an excerpt by Paul Jacob in Sun City, AZ

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    Lehigh Valley, PA
    Posts
    447
    co2 certainly is much heavier than nitrogen so inherently more dangerous if you are in closed corners. Specific Gravity of co2 is 1.53. nitrogen is 0.96. Be careful!

    The reason why we use co2 for blowing out dirty condensers rather than nitrogen is cause one 20lb cylinder of co2 will last much longer than one 60cf cylinder of nitrogen. 174 - 60 = 114 scf to be exact. Each tank is roughly same size & weight which by the way is still too heavy for this old guy.

    And I agree with the person who said the dirt & dust may be more harmful.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Posts
    4,710
    the dirt and dust may be more harmful, but I am pretty sure that a couple times the lack of oxygen or concentration of CO2 was the issue.

    I have started to use a dust mask when blowing out units. I also wear safety glasses and use a shop vac to try to catch as much junk as possible.
    The Food Stamp Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is proud to be distributing the greatest amount of free meals and stamps EVER.
    Meanwhile, the National Park Service, administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior, asks us to "Please Do Not Feed the Animals". Their stated reason for this policy "... the animals become dependent on handouts and will not learn to take care of themselves."
    from an excerpt by Paul Jacob in Sun City, AZ

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    New Mexico
    Posts
    5,535
    OSYIO said we need co2 or we would die. I hope he references that as I know many pilots that go on 100% oxygen at altitude and live.
    When I was involved in caving, bad air was usually co2. In going in old mines if you can't feel the mine breathing, going in might be a bad idea.
    I would much rather use nitro. Our air is about 75% nitro so any small addition wouldn't be noticed. CO2 is so slight in normal air that any addition might be a problem in an enclosed space.

    Anyone remember when some guys would clean condensers with Freon?

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Location
    S.E. Pa
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    6,192

    Cool seeohtwo

    Your body blows off CO2 in normal respiration. In fact, your blood CO2 levels trigger respiration--not low O2 unless you have COPD. If you stick your head under the covers and breathe in a lot of CO2 the net result is you breathe faster trying to blow off more CO2. If you were to somehow remain in a confined space with high CO2 for an extended period, you possibly could begin to build up a respiratory acidosis. However, as this triggers an increase in your respiratory rate, you begin to hyperventilate. If hyperventilation goes unchecked, you may begin to feel paresthesia or needles and pins sensation to the lips and hands from a respirator alkalosis. The you may get carpopedal spasms where your hands and feet try to curl and pronate. Treatment is to step out into normal fresh air and breathe.

    A compartment would have to be rather small and tight to hold enough CO2 to displace enough O2 to cause you any appreciable degree of hypoxia or oxygen starvation.

    If you're going to be discharging ANY gas or chemical where an employee may be exposed to it the employer is required by federal law to provide an MSDS and review it with them regarding hazards, precautions, PPE, etc.

    You know, if you're just blowing out lines, you can use compressed air....

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    Central WA
    Posts
    1,533
    CO2 stores as a liquid in the bottle like refrigerant, and therefore you get a lot more bang for your buck than a tank of nitrogen vapor. The bottle is lighter, and they usually have handles so that the employees at the quickie mart and the mcdonalds can handle them in the soda mixer.

    We get 20lb for about $5.00. I know the smell you are describing. Chug a coke really fast then burp -- that burning in your nose is what you are describing, yes?

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