The Unrealized Dangers of Carbon Dioxide Accumulation During Fruit Ripening

Ripening rooms, especially when gassing with ethylene, can reach extremely high levels of  carbon dioxide (CO2).  In a test in Seattle, WA, in 2005, CO2 in a ripening room was measured at 10%.

As bananas – and other tropical and subtropical fruit – ripen, they consume oxygen, and emit carbon dioxide and water vapor.  This is, in a way of thinking, the opposite of photosynthesis, where growing plants use sunlight and consume CO2, and emit oxygen.  (A little known fact, is that at night green plants consume oxygen and emit CO2.)

The other fruit which are ripened commercially, include avocados, tomatoes, mango, papaya, and others.

In fruit ripening, each molecule of CO2 produced, replaces one molecule of oxygen consumed.  So if CO2 rises to 5%, for example, oxygen falls by 5% too (from 21% normal air, to 16%, in this example.)

CO2 affects humans in a number of ways and as the table below shows levels as low as 2% have a significant effect on our bodies.

Click here for more info.

A CO2 sensor can help protect the health and safety of ripeners.

Carbon dioxide effects on humans, at increasing levels.

1000ppm 0.1% Prolonged exposure can affect powers of concentration
5000 ppm 0.5% The normal international Safety Limit
10,000ppm 1% Your rate of breathing increases very slightly but you probably will not notice it.
15,000ppm 1.5% The normal Short Term Exposure Limit.
20,000ppm 2% You start to breathe at about 50% above your normal rate. If you are exposed to this level over several hours you may feel tired and get a headache.
30,000ppm 3% You will be breathing at twice your normal rate. You may feel a bit dizzy at times, your heart rate and blood pressure increase and headaches are more frequent. Even your hearing can be impaired.
40,000-50,000ppm
4-5%
Now the effects of CO2 really start to take over. Breathing is much faster – about four times the normal rate and after only 30 minutes exposure to this level you will show signs of poisoning and feel a choking sensation.
50,000-100,000ppm
5-10%
You will start to smell carbon dioxide, a pungent but stimulating smell like fresh, carbonated water. You will become tired quickly with labored breathing, headaches, tinnitus as well as impaired vision. You are likely to become confused in a few minutes, followed by unconsciousness.
100,000ppm-1,000,000ppm
10-100%
Unconsciousness occurs more quickly, the higher the concentration. The longer the exposure and the higher the level of carbon dioxide, the quicker suffocation occurs.
50,000-100,000ppm
5-10%
You will start to smell carbon dioxide, a pungent but stimulating smell like fresh, carbonated water. You will become tired quickly with labored breathing, headaches, tinnitus as well as impaired vision. You are likely to become confused in a few minutes, followed by unconsciousness.
100,000ppm-1,000,000ppm
10-100%
Unconsciousness occurs more quickly, the higher the concentration. The longer the exposure and the higher the level of carbon dioxide, the quicker suffocation occurs.

We are here to help you ripen better, and make more money doing it, with a much more foolproof process.

We also have the best precoolers in the world.  Ask us about them!

Ask us questions: Jim@GlobalRipening.com.

Or surf to our websites: www.GlobalRipening.com, or www.NE-Postharvest.com.

About Banana Jim

Invented Tarpless Ripening in 1990 (some would argue that!), working at D Theoderedis in Bethlehem, PA. Founded Thermal Technologies, then sold it in 1997. Now head up Global Cooling, with the best ripening rooms and precoolers available. Ethylene scrubbers and ultrasonic humidifiers, too.
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One Response to The Unrealized Dangers of Carbon Dioxide Accumulation During Fruit Ripening

  1. JEFF says:

    Hello Jim,
    I have been ripening bananas for two years now at a major grocery chain in southern california and love what I do with a passion.
    Thank you for this imformation on ripening.
    There is alot that I have to know and your website helps.
    Again thank you,
    Jeff.

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