why are canaries used in coal mines

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Detect the presence of carbon monoxide

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  • Why are there no Canaries in coal mines?

  • Today in Science History: No More Canaries in Coal Mines. It’s hard to believe that canaries were still used in coal mines in recent decades to detect harmful underground gases. Carbon monoxide 鈥?CO 鈥?is produced through combustion and typically dissipates in the air but can be toxic in a confined space such as mines.

  • Why do miners use Canaries to detect carbon monoxide?

  • Miners began using canaries in 1911, based on the advice of Scottish scientist John Haldane. He reasoned that a singing bird would be a good indicator of carbon monoxide 鈥?the gas can build to deadly levels in mines, and it has no smell. When a canary began to weaken, or stopped singing, miners knew to get out of the mine 鈥?and quickly.

  • What is a canary used for?

  • The Story of the Real Canary in the Coal Mine Used until 1986, the humble canary was an important part of British mining history Mining foreman R. Thornburg shows a small cage with a canary used for testing carbon monoxide gas in 1928. (George McCaa, U.S. Bureau of Mines)

  • Why do they shoot Canaries in mining?

  • If a mining canary was discovered by opposing forces, it indicated the presence of a nearby mining operation and would mean 鈥渢he undoing of the work of weeks鈥? As a result, it became crucial to immediately shoot any bird that escaped. Canaries were used to detect poisonous gases well into the twentieth and even twenty-first centuries.

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