Each year during the harvest period, people suffer from CO2 poisoning…
The CO2 (carbon dioxide, also known as carbonic gas or carbon anhydride) in an hazardous, odorless, colorless gas heavier than the air. In the wine growing sector, the CO2 hazard happens essentially while working in vats and in the buildings (cellars), especially in the lower points of the installations because CO2 is heavier than the air, thus it stagnates on the ground…
During the fermentation process, a liter of wine produces 44 liters of CO2. This gas comes mainly from the alcoholic fermentation of the wort. The process begins once the grape skin splits and the temperature exceed 12°C. The sugar also encounters the yeasts present on the grape skin or in the air and gradually expandes into alcohol.
During the fermentation process, secundary compounds will spread like carbon dioxide, ethanol (alcohol), the glycerols which bring wine its unctiousness, succinic acid, acetic acid which is the vinegar acid and aromatic compounds (the esters) like those from banana or rasberry which are found in young wines (Beaujolais nouveau).
Risks and hazards of the CO2 :
Over time and experience the hazards became habits for permanent workers, thus there is a decrease of the vigilance… For temporary workers, the hazard is the lack of knowledge and the ignorance of the fermentation process… The CO2 hazards in some figures:
- 400 ppm is the CO2 content in fresh air (and healthy)
- 1000 ppm (0.1 %) : Indoor comfort limit
- 2000 ppm (0.2 %) : Increased breathing rate
- 5000 ppm (0.5 %) : Hygiene maximum value (laboratory control)
- 10 000 ppm (1 %) : Increased heart and breathing rates
- 30 000 ppm (3 %) : Breathing troubles
- 80 000 ppm (8 %) : Cramps and fainting in a few minutes
- 200 000 ppm (20 %) : Unconsciousness and death in a few seconds
How to be protected against CO2 intoxication ?
- Ensure an efficient ventilation with fresh and healthy air in the wine making buildings.
- Perform a permanent CO2 monitoring with a gas detection fixed system or, failing that, having a portable CO2 detector
- Being equipped with quick and efficient internention devices: rescue or evacuation self-contained breathing apparatus, harness…
- Beware the accident file-ups… In tanks, 1 casualty out of 3 was intoxicated while rescuing !
Winegrowers be vigilant, we are waiting impatiently for your next productions !