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carbon dioxide

A colourless gas with a faint tingling smell and taste. Atmospheric carbon dioxide is the source of carbon for plants. As carbon dioxide is heavier than air and does not support combustion, it is used in fire extinguishers. It is a normal constituent of the atmosphere, relatively innocuous in itself but playing an important role in the greenhouse effect. It is produced during the combustion of fossil fuels when the carbon content of the fuels reacts with the oxygen during combustion. It is also produced when living organisms respire. It is essential for plant nutrition and in the ocean phytoplankton is capable of absorbing and releasing large quantities of the gas.

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