Way back in the early days of smog control, they warned us that carbon monoxide would kill us all.
Except, of course, to the extent that it doesn’t:
Found in the exhaust of vehicles and generators, CO has been dubbed the “silent killer” because excessive inhalation is lethal, poisoning the nervous system and heart.
Now, in a surprising twist, Prof. Itzhak Schnell of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Geography and the Human Environment has discovered that low levels of the poisonous gas can have a narcotic effect that helps city dwellers cope with other harmful environmental factors of an urban environment, such as off-the-chart noise levels. This finding indicates that CO, in small doses, is a boon to the well-being of urbanites, better equipping them to deal with environmental stress.
Not to be confused with high levels of the poisonous gas, which has a narcotic effect that helps you drop dead in the front seat of your car with the garage closed, assuming current emissions standards even permit such high levels.
[Researchers] asked 36 healthy individuals between the ages of 20 to 40 to spend two days in Tel Aviv, Israel’s busiest city. The test subjects travelled various routes to sites such as busy streets, restaurants, malls and markets, by public and private transportation or by foot. Researchers monitored the impact of four different environmental stressors: thermal load (heat and cold), noise pollution, carbon monoxide levels, and social load (the impact of crowds).
Participants reported to what extent their experiences were stressful, and their input was corroborated with data taken from sensors that measured heart rate and pollutant levels. Noise pollution emerged as the most significant cause of stress.
The most surprising find of the study, says Prof. Schnell, was in looking at levels of CO that the participants inhaled during their time in the city. Not only were the levels much lower than the researchers predicted — approximately 1-15 parts per million every half hour — but the presence of the gas appeared to have a narcotic effect on the participants, counteracting the stress caused by noise and crowd density.
OSHA’s current recommended limit is 50 ppm, averaged over 8 hours.
This research has been published in the journal Environmental Monitoring and Assessment. Regina Spektor was not available for comment.
(Via Muck and Mystery.)