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Published on Feb 18, 2016
Natural gas is a fossil fuel which contains methane, a hydrocarbon that is a highly flammable chemical compound. Natural gas is colorless and odorless in its pure form, but gas companies add a warning smell (mercaptans) to it to make it more easily detected if there is a leak.
Natural gas is burned to produce electricity in power plants and has residential, industrial and commercial uses. In a residential setting, natural gas may be used to fuel a heating furnace, water heater, space heater, pool and jacuzzi heater, fireplace, outdoor lights, clothes dryer, air conditioner and stove.
Industrial uses of natural gas are primarily in a few industries (including pulp and paper, metals, chemicals, petroleum refining, stone, clay, glass, plastic and food processing). Natural gas is also used for waste treatment and incineration, industrial lighting, heating, cooling, dehumidification, water heating and combined heat and power systems.
If a natural gas leak occurs and is severe, oxygen can be reduced causing dizziness, fatigue, nausea, headache, decreased vision and irregular breathing. Exposure to extremely high levels of natural gas can cause loss of consciousness or death.
Indicators of a natural gas leak may include: • Rotten egg or sulfur-like smell from the mercaptans added to the natural gas, but people with a diminished sense of smell or odor fatigue may not notice the odor. Some environmental conditions could also cause odor fade. • A hissing, whistling or roaring sound from a broken natural gas line or appliance. • Signs of damage to a natural gas appliance or service line.
People who suspect a natural gas leak should immediately evacuate the building and area without creating any type of flame, touching electrical devices, operating a vehicle or doing anything else that could cause a spark. The appropriate authorities should then be notified.
These are just a few things to know about natural gas and indoor environmental concerns. To learn more about this or other indoor air quality, health, safety, occupational or property issues, please visit the websites shown on the screen.