Carbon dioxide poisoning

Toxicol Rev. 2005;24(4):229-35. doi: 10.2165/00139709-200524040-00003.


Carbon dioxide is a physiologically important gas, produced by the body as a result of cellular metabolism. It is widely used in the food industry in the carbonation of beverages, in fire extinguishers as an 'inerting' agent and in the chemical industry. Its main mode of action is as an asphyxiant, although it also exerts toxic effects at cellular level. At low concentrations, gaseous carbon dioxide appears to have little toxicological effect. At higher concentrations it leads to an increased respiratory rate, tachycardia, cardiac arrhythmias and impaired consciousness. Concentrations >10% may cause convulsions, coma and death. Solid carbon dioxide may cause burns following direct contact. If it is warmed rapidly, large amounts of carbon dioxide are generated, which can be dangerous, particularly within confined areas. The management of carbon dioxide poisoning requires the immediate removal of the casualty from the toxic environment, the administration of oxygen and appropriate supportive care. In severe cases, assisted ventilation may be required. Dry ice burns are treated similarly to other cryogenic burns, requiring thawing of the tissue and suitable analgesia. Healing may be delayed and surgical intervention may be required in severe cases.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carbon Dioxide / poisoning*
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Oxygen Inhalation Therapy
  • Poisoning / therapy
  • Respiration, Artificial


  • Carbon Dioxide