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Typical CO2 - Carbon Dioxide Levels Indoors & Outside: this document discusses the typical or normal levels of carbon dioxide gas (CO2) outdoors and inside buildings. We give references and explanation regarding Toxicity of Carbon Dioxide, based on literature search and search on Compuserve's Safety Forum by Dan Friedman. This is background information, obtained from expert sources.
This text may assist readers in understanding these topics. However it should by no means be considered complete nor authoritative. Seek prompt advice from your doctor or health/safety experts if you have any reason to be concerned about exposure to toxic gases. Links on this page also direct the reader to carbon monoxide gas information in a separate document.
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How to use gas detection tubes for measuring the level of various gases
The colorimetric gas detection tubes, here showing a tube made by Drager, are a relatively inexpensive way to test for the level of specific gases.
The tubes are quite accurate and can be selected and used down to very low concentrations of various gases, provided that a properly chosen and calibrated gas testing pump is used. In some cases for very precise measurements a correction factor needs to be applied for temperature at the time of measurement.
We use Drager tubes as well as another system of tubes and pump made for and sold through GasTec for testing indoor levels of specific gases.
What are the component gases that make up normal air and in what proportions or percentages do they ocur?
At sea level on earth, what is the composition of the air we breathe? That is, what gases make up normal outdoor air? How much CO2 is in air? How much oxygen is in air? and how much nitrogen is in the earth's atmosphere? Here is the mix of gases in normal outdoor air.
The earth's atmosphere (measured close to ground level) is made up of 78.1% nitrogen, 20.9% oxygen, 0.9% argon, 0.03% carbon dioxide, and 0.04% other gases. Let's look at some typical CO2 levels in both percentage and expressed in parts per million, which is how most instruments measure gas concentrations. [The mix of gases in air near some manufacturing facilities or in some cities may be a bit different.]
What are typical Carbon Dioxide levels in indoor and outdoor air?
Carbon Dioxide CO2 Sources in the Atmosphere & Carbon Dioxide CO2 Level Changes as a Greenhouse Gas
According to the US EPA's overview data:
History of Levels of Carbon Dioxide CO2 in the Atmosphere
Because CO2 (carbon dioxide) is the principal component of greenhouse gases, CO2 plays a crucial role in the extent and rate of global warming, scientists are interested in tracking changes in the level of CO2 in the earth's atmosphere and also in the level of CO2 in the earth's oceans (where that gase moves during periods of gobal cooling).
In practical effect, even before considerations of the chemical effects of changes in CO2 in the atmosphere or oceans, this gas tracks not only global warming or cooling, but also changes in sea-level. (See FLOOD DAMAGE CLEANUP & REPAIR GUIDE for practical information about flood damage assessment & building repairs or floodproofing). The last period of significant global warming (and atmospheric surge in CO2 occurred 120,000 years ago. 
In January 2013 the New York Times reported that at the dawn of the industrial revolution (ca 1760) the atmosphere typically contained 280 ppm of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) while currently (in 2013) it is common to obtain outdoor Carbon Dioxide readings close to 400 ppm. 
In the Pleocine epoch (about 3,000,000 years ago) CO2 levels have been estimated at about 400 ppm - a level scientists predict will be reached again (if not already by some measures) in the next few years. Relating CO2 levels and rising sea levels, scientists currently (2013) are finding beach levels ranging from 33 feet to 295 feet above current sea levels (probably before correction for shifts in actual dry land movement up or down as well). 
According to the Times, 450 ppm of Carbon Dioxide CO2 is considered a tipping point at which out-of-control acceleration of temperature rises occur due to the heat trapping effects of CO2 and its effect as a greenhouse gas. 
Levels of carbon dioxide in the earth's atmosphere have in fact ranged widely over the planet's history. A peak CO2 level [over 2000 ppm] appears to have been reached between 500 and 600 million years ago, dropping to close to current levels around 300 million years ago, and with a second surge to a much lower peak level around 100 million years ago.
Pearson & Palmer, reporting on a study of the history of levels of carbon dioxide in the earth's atmosphere have reported:
And Retallack has clearly indicated that
Interestingly, while many scientists, including a thoughtful analysis by Mahli have pointed out that there are likely to be limits to tyhe amou7nt of casrbon storasghe possible in natural vegetaion, and that there is a significant potential to accelerate rather than brake global warming,, Kasting & Ackerman, reporting in1986 on modeling of possible effects on climate (including temperature) of high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, appeared unconvinced of the risk of development of runaway greenhouse gas conditions:
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the typical levels of carbon dioxide found outdoors & inside buildings
Questions & answers or comments about levels of CO2 Carbon Dioxide gas found in and around buildings, CO2 Carbon Dioxide gas hazards & exposure limits, and CO2 measurement methods.
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Gases: Toxic gases, indoor exposure levels, testing, identification