CO2 from fermenters - possible health effects?

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Acumen

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Because it has been the tail end of winter, I still had plastic over all my windows for heat conservation.

Since about 2 weeks ago (when my first batch went into the fermentor) when I work out I have been getting extremely painful headaches. Google said that it could be from incorrect breathing, but I had not changed my routine at all, I had even lowered the weight I am lifting. It took me a while to put two and two together, but I realized finally that I have filled my entire basement (where I have my gym machine) with C02 and had little to no ventilation.

Has anyone had similar issues?

I just ripped all the plastic off my windows and am attempting to purge out the CO2, hopefully the headaches will go away...
 

Scotty_g

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I'd say if you're worried about headaches from homebrewing, drink more water before you go to bed and take an aspirin.

Carbon monoxide (CO) will cause headaches and all kinds of other problems (up to and including death). It is formed by incomplete combustion (like a charcoal grill or poorly-operating furnace). You can get CO monitors at any hardware or home improvement store.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is produced by complete combustion or metabolism (aerobic, like you and I are engaged in) or anaerobic (which your yeast are doing to create alcohol). You can be suffocated by CO2 only if it displaces all the oxygen in the room (like if you stuck your head in a cooler that had a block of dry ice slowly vaporizing).

I strongly disbelieve that you could make enough CO2 from home-scale brewing to lower the oxygen in you basement enough to be a problem. According to wikipedia 1% in air is enough to make you drowsy, and 7-10% will cause headaches and more severe conditions.

Assuming you convert 100% of the carbon in your malt to CO2 (which is patently untrue, considering the yeast are producing alcohol), you get 1.4 lb of CO2 per lb of malt. A standard 5-gal batch with 6 lb of DME would make 8.8 lb of CO2 (and consume 6.6 lb of O2). In my basement, this would only raise the CO2 level to 1% (not 7%) if it was all consumed at once. In practice, the only way I could accomplish both of these would be to *burn* malt or DME.

Most houses leak enough to avoid buildup of CO/CO2 unless you have some really poorly-operating combustion sources. CO is a bigger danger because it takes less of it to poison you.
 

ajf

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Assume you have 1 5g batch of beer that started at an OG of 1.050, and fermented down to 1.012
5g is 19 liters, so you will lose 19 * (1.050 - 1.012) kg of weight which will be mostly CO2
19 * .038 which is approximately 3/4 Kg.
The density of CO2 is roughly 2 kg per cubic meter, so you will have generated about 3/8 cubic meter (or 13 cubic feet).
My (full) basement is about 8000 cubic feet, so that would give me less than 0.2% additional CO2, but it will build up a bit in a basement because of poor ventilation and the fact that it is heavier than air.

-a.
 

Tech211

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I highly doubt it's the co2. Consider that plenty of people on this board have leaked entire 5 or 20 pound co2 bottles in enclosed areas and have lived to post about it.
 

taylornate

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You can be suffocated by CO2 only if it displaces all the oxygen in the room (like if you stuck your head in a cooler that had a block of dry ice slowly vaporizing).
While I agree it doesn't seem likely that this is caused by the CO2 from the fermentation, it is worth mentioning that CO2 itself is poisonous and displacement of O2 is not the only problem. You should watch Apollo 13 again.
 

mat_890

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While I agree it doesn't seem likely that this is caused by the CO2 from the fermentation, it is worth mentioning that CO2 itself is poisonous and displacement of O2 is not the only problem. You should watch Apollo 13 again.
Co2 is not really poisonous and in a normal setting oxygen displacement IS the only problem. While you can get CO2 poisoning if you inhale FAR FAR too much to say its poisonous suggests there will be adverse health effects even in low doses which is untrue.

Toxicity of Carbon Dioxide CO2 Gas Exposure, poisoning symptoms, exposure limits, and Links to Toxic Gas Testing Procedures C02 Gas toxicity CO2 exposure limits

Further reading
 

nasmeyer

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Because it has been the tail end of winter, I still had plastic over all my windows for heat conservation.

Since about 2 weeks ago (when my first batch went into the fermentor) when I work out I have been getting extremely painful headaches. Google said that it could be from incorrect breathing, but I had not changed my routine at all, I had even lowered the weight I am lifting. It took me a while to put two and two together, but I realized finally that I have filled my entire basement (where I have my gym machine) with C02 and had little to no ventilation.

Has anyone had similar issues?

I just ripped all the plastic off my windows and am attempting to purge out the CO2, hopefully the headaches will go away...
I hope not, I stick my nose over my airlock and take a drag or two every day to get a whif of that sweet stuff!
 

andymac

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its not the beer, not enough there, only one fermentor and create enough CO2 to stick around and over come you. Its your home , poor ventilation, check your furnace, or combustible equipment (car, motorts) or its you, get checked out by your primary doc. Head aches are simple as high sodium diets, not enough water, low potassium diet, vitamin and electrolytes are lacking etc. Migraine, are a combination of many things, but you said your not vomiting or having blurred vision...well if anything here is some useful info, and since im in Physician Assistant School I will bore you with it now...

Carbon being a gas when inhaled at a unhealthy level can produce a sour taste in the mouth and a stinging feeling in the nose and throat. When combined with the mucous it creates carbonic acid. Any prolonged exposure to moderate levels of CO2 can cause acidosis, this being said, acidosis toxicity in 5 steps.

1. drowsiness
2. increased blood pressure, pulse
3. dizziness, confusion and difficulty breathing, headache and SOB(shortness of breath)
4. Headache, sweating, vision changes, tremor, loss of consciousness.
5. Death.

I hope your not reaching step 3, but then again your able to write on HBT!
 
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You could buy an SPO2 meter (pulse oximetry meter) and see if your ogygen content is above 95% You can get one that fits over your finger.

Take a reading before during and after your work out. If it drops below 90% see a doctor asap. If it's below 95% you really should see a doctor and find out why. Normal range is 95% and higher.

Also, this could be from a whole slew of health related issues. I'd talk this over with a doctor. Anything from a dehydration to tension headache to something quite serious.
 
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Acumen

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I have about 5000 cubic feet, and had 3 fermentors going. (13 *3) / 5000 = 0.78%

On top of the fermentors is all the CO2 I have put out myself just by hanging out down here, so I more then likely am above the 1% mark on CO2...

Since I have been keeping the windows open the problem has all but gone away.

I think I have a compelling argument, watch out for the CO2!
 
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Acumen

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Yes, my gym machine is in my basement, where I do spend alot of time.

During normal activity, everything was fine. The prolonged and increased oxygen needed for working out was a problem though (my best guess). The lack of oxygen was then causing headaches similar to those which can occur from improper breathing. When I first googled my headaches, improper breathing was the first thing to pop up, but I have had the same routine for a long time, and breathing was never an issue.
 

Ballistic

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CO2 is not poisonous in the same way that CO is. CO attaches itself to the haemoglobin in the blood and removes it's ability to carry oxygen. You can die pretty quick in a CO environment. CO2 is gradually increasing in our atmosphere but our lungs have the capacity to extract more oxygen from what we breath in and at altitude our bodies react to lower oxygen levels by our heart rate increasing etc.
 

Ballistic

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Working out why you are having headaches is going to be hit and miss. They may even clear up due to the placebo effect whatever you do to stop them initially

I recently discovered that my saliva removes permanent ink from indelible pens, and for a split second I wondered if there is some ingredient in my home brew or maybe my blood \ alcohol percentage is way too high... or something.

who knows?
 

LooyvilleLarry

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Yes, I have definitely noticed that right after staring at the active ferm, or breathing in the blowoff, that severe dehydration sets in immediately. :)
 

taylornate

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CO2 is not poisonous in the same way that CO is. CO attaches itself to the haemoglobin in the blood and removes it's ability to carry oxygen. You can die pretty quick in a CO environment. CO2 is gradually increasing in our atmosphere but our lungs have the capacity to extract more oxygen from what we breath in and at altitude our bodies react to lower oxygen levels by our heart rate increasing etc.
I don't think anybody made the claim that CO2 is poisonous the same way CO is. It messes with your body chemistry. Breathe enough of it and it will kill you, even if you have plenty of O2. Like I said before, if you breathe in enough from a fermenter you will get a burning sensation. Here is what OSHA says about CO2:

Toxicologic Review of Selected Chemicals - 210

The small increase in atmospheric CO2 is not medically significant. Our bodies do react the way you say they do at altitude, but I'm not sure what that has to do with the discussion on CO2.
 
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Acumen

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Interesting link. I am very suprised that there is indeed such a focus on the beer industry within the OSHA document!

The basic wiki/instructions for home brewing should have a line saying to keep fermentors in a well ventilated area and warn of CO2 buildup. I would not have had such a hard time figuring out what was causing my headaches if I had read anything about it. I did alot of research before starting and didn't see anything about ventilation other then indoor propane use... (which I would hope would be a no brainer)
 

Ballistic

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I don't think anybody made the claim that CO2 is poisonous the same way CO is.
The reason I bring CO into the conversation is because respiration produces CO2 naturally in our bodies and we breath it out (and in) constantly. It is naturally found within our lungs and blood stream. If Carbon Monoxide was found in your lungs... then you would have a serious problem. That is the relevence of my comment.
 

taylornate

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The reason I bring CO into the conversation is because respiration produces CO2 naturally in our bodies and we breath it out (and in) constantly. It is naturally found within our lungs and blood stream. If Carbon Monoxide was found in your lungs... then you would have a serious problem. That is the relevence of my comment.
I'm not trying to be a dick, but I still don't see your point. I don't see why you suddenly brought in CO. It would make about as much sense to me if you started talking about arsenic.

Are you trying to say that because it is found naturally in our bodies that it isn't harmful?
 

Ballistic

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Carbon Dioxide is only poisonous in sufficient quantity - a quantity which will either take a long time to build up from a small home brewing operation if at all.

I am comparing it to Carbon Monoxide because if you were releasing Carbon Monoxide in your cellar, we would be talking about a life threatening situation.

I think the comparison quite clearly makes my point without going into the maths behind it.

OK, lets put this another way:

Carbon Monoxide bonds with elements of your blood permanently and are not released until the cell dies, therefore small amounts of Carbon Monoxide can gradually build up in your body leading to possible death.

As long as the concentration of CO2 in your room does not go above 1%, the exposure is normal and you'll live. The body is able to rid itself of the slight fluctuations of CO2 which occur all the time.
 

conpewter

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This reminded me of an interesting story

Lake Nyos - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

I would imagine you could effect the percentage of Co2 in a basement with fermentation (especially with several fermenters as mentioned). The scary part is that it is heavier than air, so generally if you have enough Co2 and decide to lay on the floor (perhaps doing stretches?) it could cause serious issues and even death.
 

Ballistic

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The amount of CO2 produced is almost the same in weight as the alcohol produced ;the percentage is 44 \ 46 of the alcohol (the alcohol component alone). So for a typical user on this web site there is no need for panic. It is obvious that if you have a full scale industry going on in your basement and no ventilation.... well...
 
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