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Pollutant Fact Files

Look up the fact files about these nasty pollutants!

  • Nitrogen dioxide
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Ozone
  • Particulate matter
  • Sulphur dioxide

Carbon Monoxide (CO)

Carbon monoxide

Carbon monoxide is a gas that you can't see or smell. It's also poisonous and breathing in lots and lots of carbon monoxide can kill us because our lungs confuse it with oxygen and put it in our bloodstream by mistake. When carbon monoxide is in our blood it stops the blood being able to absorb oxygen. This means we then don't have enough oxygen in our blood to keep us alive.

Although carbon monoxide is very poisonous, levels of this gas in outdoor air are usually too low to be dangerous. People are usually only in danger from carbon monoxide indoors, if they have a faulty boiler or heater.

Fuels need oxygen to burn. Carbon Monoxide is produced when fuel is burnt when there isn’t enough oxygen - like in a car engine. This means that forms of transport (such as cars, trucks and buses) are the main source of carbon monoxide pollution. However, carbon monoxide is also produced by power stations, and by waste incinerators, which burn our rubbish (usually using it to produce energy).