In the winter, we fight the cold by turning up the heat! We’re often focused on the risks of being too cold. But we also need to consider the risks of how we’re warming up. (ACS Reactions:
Get To Know A Molecule – animated intro) When you’re burning anything, like gasoline, kerosene, wood, coal or propane for heat, carbon monoxide poisoning can pose a serious risk. Part of what makes it so risky is that C-O, that’s its chemical formula, is odorless and colorless. C-O can give you some very severe side effects in very small concentrations. Being exposed to about 400 parts per million, that’s about Point-Zero-Four percent of the air around you, can give you a headache and nausea. That sounds bad, but…………That’s not too bad. Bump that up to 800 parts per million, and in just 45 minutes, you’ve got a headache, nausea and you’re dizzy. 15 minutes later, you could be unconscious. Now what makes C-O so dangerous? It’s a molecular monkey wrench to our breathing process. Every cell in our body needs oxygen. This requires that O2 be transported through the body, and cells take it up and use it. C-O messes with these processes. First, let’s talk O2 transport. The protein hemoglobin is tasked with binding
to O2 and shuttling it around. O2 is a good passenger– it holds on tight, but lets go
when the time is right. The same can’t be said for carbon monoxide. It holds on much tighter than
O2 – about 200 times tighter. CO is also a bad guest, over-staying its welcome. CO’s extra sticky nature means O2 can’t bind to hemoglobin, and oxygen can’t get where it’s needed. Want to stay safe from carbon monoxide poisoning? The CDC recommends the following: 1. Have your heating system, water heater and any other gas, oil, or coal burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year. 2. Install a battery-operated or battery back-up CO detector in your home and replace the battery twice a year. 3. Don’t use a generator, charcoal grill, camp, stove, or other gasoline or charcoal-burning device inside your home, basement,
or garage or near a window. 4.And Don’t burn anything in a stove or fireplace that isn’t vented. Follow these tips and we can stay safe from CO2 poisoning and warm this winter. Thanks to CAS (Chemical Abstract Service) for sponsoring this video. And hey, if you’re really into molecules, check out Scifinder Future Leaders in Chemistry Program. Ph.D. students and postdocs like me from around the world are brought in to share their insights and go behind the scenes with Scifinder. It’s an all-expense-paid trip where you’ll get to see firsthand how CAS builds and maintains the world’s most authoritative chemistry databases. Subscribe for new “Get To Know A Molecule” episodes every two weeks, along with our usual weekly videos chock full of chemistry goodness.