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Symptoms of Natural Gas Exposure

Updated April 17, 2017

Natural gas exposure can occur when appliances, heating systems and pipes in your home leak gas. Natural gas contains chemicals such as methane, ethane, propane, butane and carbon monoxide. The gas is odourless and colourless, which makes detecting a leak difficult. Therefore, a "rotten egg" smell has been added to it for easier detection. Natural gas exposure can cause a variety of symptoms, and in severe cases can cause death.

Low-Level Exposure

A small gas leak in your home can be difficult to detect. Low-level exposure to natural gas can cause mild headaches and a feeling of breathlessness when you exert yourself during physical activities. Headaches and breathlessness can also be caused by a variety of other issues, including allergies or illness. However, if you or other members of your family continuously suffer from mild headaches, you should have your natural gas appliances and pipes checked for leaks as one possible cause.

High-Level or Prolonged Exposure

Prolonged or high-level exposure to natural gas causes flu-like symptoms including severe headaches, tiredness or fatigue, dizziness, and nausea. Victims of exposure might also appear confused, have difficulty remembering things, become irritable and have difficulties with physical coordination. Pets in the home can also demonstrate symptoms of natural gas exposure. If your pet is unusually lethargic or seems ill and members of your family are experiencing any of the listed symptoms, have your natural gas appliances and systems checked right away. If there is a large leak in your home, consider moving to a safe, temporary residence until all necessary repairs are made.

Severe Exposure

In the event of excessively prolonged or sudden exposure to extremely high concentrations of natural gas, you might experience a loss of consciousness. Losing consciousness while being exposed to a natural gas leak is dangerous. The carbon monoxide in the natural gas prevents oxygen from being absorbed into the bloodstream. This not only damages internal organs and tissues, but can cause death. In the event of sudden or severe exposure to natural gas, try to move the victim out of the home and into fresh air as quickly as possible. Call emergency services if the victim is not breathing, is having difficulty breathing or does not regain consciousness once removed from the home.

Prevention

Help prevent harmful exposure to natural gas by installing a carbon monoxide or natural gas detector in your home. These devices will alert you if they detect anything above a certain level of gas in your home's air. Maintain and service all your gas appliances and heating systems regularly to keep them in good and safe working order. Always use your exhaust fan when cooking on a gas stove.

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About the Author

Erika Sanders has been writing since 1997. She teaches writing at the Washington State Reformatory and edits the monthly newsletter for the Collaborative on Health and the Environment, a national nonprofit organization. She received her Master of Fine Arts in fiction from the Solstice Program at Pine Manor College in Boston.