Human Anatomy – Term Paper Example

The main reason why miners bring down with them a caged canary is that the bird can detect traces of methane gas in the air. Methane is a colorlessand odorless gas that can easily be inhaled by humans which makes it cunningly dangerous. Methane is not toxic when inhaled, but it can produce suffocation by reducing the concentration of oxygen inhaled. According to a discussion on the lesson on gases in the website Scifun, commercial companies put trace amount of smelly organic sulfur compounds (tertiary-butyl mercaptan, (CH3)3CSH and dimethyl sulfide, CH3–S–CH3) so that humans would be able to smell them which indicates gas leak since methane is also combustible ( scifun.org, n.d. ). In closed environments such as mines, the oxygen supply is easily cut-off as the mines get deeper. Thus, lack of oxygen and presence of methane gas is a fatal combination for miners.
Canaries played a significant role in detecting the presence of methane due to their metabolism. The website Mine and Safety Health Organization revealed that :
Canaries were preferred over mice to alert coal miners to the presence of carbon monoxide underground, because canaries more visibly demonstrated signs of distress in the presence of small quantities of the noxious gas. For instance, when consumed by the effects of carbon monoxide, a canary would sway noticeably on his perch before falling, a much better indicator of danger than the limited struggle and squatting, extended posture a mouse might assume ( msho.gov )
Canaries are jovial creatures and manifest this by constant chirping. Thus, when the chirping dies down, it is fatal warning for the miner to get out of the mine immediately since an explosion can happen anytime. Although this is unfortunate for a canary to risk its life, it has done great service to mankind.
WORKS CITED
“Chemical of the Week”. Scifun . http://scifun.chem.wisc.edu/chemweek/methane /methane.html
“A Pictorial Walk through the 20th Century: Canaries”. Mine Safety and Health Organization http://www.msha.gov/ century/ canary/ canary.asp