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We are often asked about the effects of carbon dioxide on the body and how to tell if there is a gas leak. As a result of this, we have created this post to provide additional information about exposure to carbon dioxide.


Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a gas which occurs naturally in the Earth’s atmosphere at a rate of 400 parts per million (ppm). It is colourless, odourless and non-flammable.

CO2 is used in a wide range of industries:

  • it is used to carbonate soft drinks and alcoholic beverages,
  • it is a primary ingredient in fire extinguishers
  • it is used to decaffeinate coffee and clean clothes
  • it is used to promote growth in fruit and vegetables
  • it is used as a coolant gas in power stations
  • it is used to create dry ice
  • carbon dioxide can also be generated by certain products, for example, when timber is held in a confined space, it undergoes oxidation which causes CO2 to be produced

The level of CO2 normally in the atmosphere is harmless, but an increase of levels of the gas in a working or home environment can have serious health effects. Some organisations have set long and short term exposure limits for working, and this legislation varies globally. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) have set an exposure limit of 5,000ppm over an eight-hour period, and 30,000ppm over a 10-minute period, whilst the European standard EH40 has set a short-term 15-minute exposure limit of 15,000ppm.

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