Captain Physics Explains How Carbon Monoxide Kills By Stealing Oxygen From Your Lungs

11:24 PM, Dec 6, 2012   |    comments
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Winston-Salem, NC--  Several people, including children, were treated Wednesday night for carbon monoxide poisoning while at church.

Read here: 4 Children, 3 Adults Sent To Hospital After Carbon Monoxide Exposure At W-S Church

Carbon monoxide is invisible, odorless, tasteless, and deadly, but do you know why?

Troy "Captain Physics" Corsner, a physics teacher at Grimsley High School in Greensboro, gave News 2 a science lesson.

You might think that carbon monoxide attacks your lungs and kills you the same way smoke does.  However, carbon monoxide actually attacks your blood.

Carbon monoxide is made up of carbon and one molecule of oxygen.  But it wants to be carbon dioxide, which is made up of carbon and two molecules of oxygen.

That's how it kills you, by stealing oxygen from your blood.

"It's carbon and one oxygen and it's really looking for another partner so it's going to try and get that partner anyway it can. So when you inhale all that carbon monoxide, again colorless, odorless, tasteless, you don't even know it's there. So it's a silent and deadly killer," said Corsner. 

What happened at the Oak Grove Moravian Church in Winston-Salem is known as an "incomplete combustion."

A member of the church told News 2 that something was blocking airflow out of the building. That created a lack of oxygen and caused the furnace to produce carbon monoxide.

"You're not going to get a good airflow so you're going to get...some of that oxygen's not going to be able to flow through where the furnace is doing all its burning," added Corsner.

Corsner explained that carbon monoxide attacks quickly. It only needs to steal oxygen from 50% of your blood to kill you.

In 2011, the Winston-Salem Fire Department responded to 37 carbon monoxide calls, mostly to people's homes.

WFMY News 2

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