Natural gas, a fossil fuel found under the surface of the earth, is a hydrocarbon gas that primarily contains methane. Natural gas is used in the manufacture of fertilizer, antifreeze, plastics, pharmaceuticals, and fabrics. It’s important to understand the health and safety effects of natural gas, and how to prepare in the unfortunate case of hazardous leaks.
What Are The Dangers of Natural Gas?
Since natural gas is naturally invisible and odorless, it can be hard to detect at high concentrations in the air. To combat this problem, natural gas distribution companies are required to add a form of mercaptan, a chemical that smells like rotten eggs. At low concentrations, escaping natural gas can be detected by smell; however, relying entirely on your sense of smell can be disastrous.
Furthermore, in some cases, natural gas used in some plants may not contain any odorant and so would go undetected. Without a natural gas detection system in your manufacturing processes, the health your workers could be at risk in the following three ways.
- Decreased level of oxygen
- Release of carbon monoxide
- Risk of a flash fire or explosion
1) Decreased level of oxygen
Leaking natural gas can replace oxygen in ambient air. Without oxygen, you will be unable to breathe, resulting in a range of symptoms including:
- Eye and throat irritation
- Breathing problems
- Pale skin or blisters from skin contact
2) Release of carbon monoxide
One of the primary uses of natural gas in industrial applications is to provide heat. This requires that the gas be burned in the presence of air. If natural gas is burned without sufficient oxygen, the incomplete combustion process creates carbon monoxide, a highly toxic gas that is very dangerous to humans.
Carbon monoxide usually extrudes an extremely pungent odor and can cause a round of dangerous health effects. That being said, carbon monoxide poisoning looks very similar to natural gas poisoning, with severe cases having deadly consequences.
Pro Tip: Each of our detectors can be customized for equipment or facility. Install a carbon monoxide sensor as part of your gas detection system to monitor unsafe gas concentration levels in your vicinity.
3) Risk of a flash fire or major explosion
Finally and most importantly, leaking natural gas can quickly become an explosive hazard. It only takes a concentration of five percent (5%) by volume to create an explosive atmosphere. And there will be a source of ignition!
Any combustible gas detector system should include highly visible warning strobes and loud horns to indicate the presence of a leak and give employees a chance to leave the premises before hazardous conditions exist. In addition, the gas detection system can be programmed to trigger exhaust fans and close gas valves in the event of a warning indication.
How to Respond to a Suspected Gas Leak
To guard against the health risks of a potential natural gas leak, it’s important to know what to do if you. In the case of an emergency, immediately call 911 to contact the fire department for further assistance. If the leak is suspected outside and you’re not in immediate danger, follow these instructions:
- Mild Gas Leaks – Leave the area if you’re not sure of the leak’s extent.
- Severe Gas Leaks – Leave the surrounding area as soon as possible. Due to the flammability of natural gas, a simple phone call uses enough energy that could ignite a fire. Drive away from the area and contact emergency personnel for further assistance.
Caution: Whatever you do, don’t underestimate the power of natural gas. If there is a suspected gas leak, any source of electricity can create an explosion. Do not touch any electrical components in your vicinity until the natural gas levels are under control.
Prepare for Natural Gas Leaks
Burning natural gas is a safe and common practice, but without proper safety detection, it can cause a myriad of health issues. Install a safety detection system to help prepare for a natural gas leak before it’s too late.
Don’t put your health at risk. Connect with our gas detection experts to find the right monitor system for your industrial applications.