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New Carbon Monoxide Sensor Developed For Occupational Use

A new lightweight, inexpensive, accurate carbon monoxide (CO) sensor and monitoring system has been developed by scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Quantum Group Incorporated (QGI, San Diego).

Field testing of the new device at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco has shown that it is more accurate than the personal CO monitors currently available on the market.

"About 19,000 accidental carbon monoxide poisonings were reported by the American Association of Poison Control Centers in 1995," said Michael Apte, a scientist in Berkeley Lab's Environmental Energy Technologies Division, 'but very little is known about the actual extent and distribution of carbon monoxide exposures in the United States. Five hundred to a thousand accidental deaths a year are attributed to carbon monoxide poisoning, and it's the number one cause of unintentional poisoning in the United States."

Total numbers of poisonings are also difficult to estimate, according to Apte, because the effects of sub-acute CO poisoning are easily misdiagnosed as flu-like symptoms such as headaches and dizziness.

There is limited understanding about carbon monoxide exposure risks, partly because there has been no affordable way to accurately measure CO in the field. Some of the current methods of measurement require expensive, heavy equipment or unwieldy air bag samplers. Others are relatively inexpensive and lightweight, but they are not accurate or sensitive enough to provide credible quantitative results for a large number of sites.

To fill this gap in technology, Berkeley Lab and QGI worked together to develop the new CO sensor, which can clip onto a person's clothing. It can be used as an occupational dosimeter, which measures a worker's time-weighted average exposure to CO over an eight-hour period, or as a residential passive sampler measuring time-weighted average exposure in a home or office over a one-week period
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Contact: Allan Chen
a_chen@lbl.gov
510-486-4210
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
17-May-1999


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