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Sources of Carbon Monoxide

Where Does Carbon Monoxide (CO) Come From?

CO is Produced when:

Carbonaceous materials are burned with insufficient oxygen. Its lethal effects have been known for centuries; in ancient Rome, "coal gas" was used for executions and suicides.

Man-made sources of CO include:

  • Incomplete fuel combustion used in transport -
  • Automobile/Truck exhaust
  • Airplane exhaust
  • Smoking of cigarettes, cigars, pipes, etc.
  • Defective heating (furnace, water heater) systems
  • Defective cooking appliances
  • Industrial plant exhausts
  • Burning of solid waste
  • Detonation of explosives

Natural sources of CO also exist but they contribute very little to the overall atmospheric CO level.

Geophysical

  • Marsh gases
  • Forest fires
  • Volcanic gases
  • Natural gases in coal mines
  • Photo-dissociation of CO in upper atmosphere
  • Formation of CO during electrical storms

Biological

  • Endogenous CO production by land animals
  • From vegetation during seed germination
  • From marine brown algae or kelp
  • Marine hydrozoans: e.g. jellyfish

Used with permission from the author David G. Penney, PH.D.