I see exposure limits for carbon monoxide like 50 ppm over 8 hours. This would correspond to a total inspired volume of carbon monoxide on the order of a few hundred milliliters. This exposure is supposed to be far from fatal, but I'm unsure how to think about extrapolating long term exposure limits to acute limits, thus my questions:

  1. What are the likely consequences if I breathed in the entire 200 ml of CO in a single breath, or even an entire lungful of pure CO?
  2. If the answers to the above end up being "you would die", is there a reasonable way to estimate the maximum volume you could acutely breath in?

"In any high level CO environment, your exhaled breath CO level will gradually rise but remain lower than the ambient level because you always absorb some of the CO you inhale as long as the level in air is higher than the level in your blood. As soon as you stop smoking or move to a lower CO environment, you start exhaling."

So I suspect a lungful of pure CO would indeed make you feel awful, but since that wouldn't be nearly enough to replace all the oxygen bound to your haemoglobin, I imagine it wouldn't be fatal in a healthy individual, especially if you were breathing air free of CO after that one lungful.

Apparently it takes 5 hours to eliminate half of your blood CO also.

  • 1
    What are you quoting here? Please provide the reference. Also, it doesn’t look like this quote is really relevant to the question, since it seems to refer to specific CO-rich environments, and smoking. – Konrad Rudolph Sep 14 at 16:43

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