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Published on Sep 17, 2015
Propane (C3H8) is a colorless and odorless gas or liquid that is highly flammable. It is produced as a by-product of natural gas processing and crude oil refining and is the principal component of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). It is used to manufacture other chemicals (ethylene and propylene) and is used as a refrigerant, solvent and aerosol propellant.
The most common household uses for propane are in open-fired outdoor grills, hot water heaters, stoves and in heating systems for homes, spas and swimming pools. In agriculture, propane is used for heating, power generation, waste treatment, crop drying and weed control (corn, soybeans, cotton, tobacco and strawberries). In industry, propane is used as a fuel for various machines, including forklifts. It is also a fuel for light-to-heavy-duty trucks, buses, delivery vehicles and other types of vehicles.
People can be exposed to propane if they inhale it or if it touches their skin or eyes. It is denser than air so if there is a leak in a propane delivery or storage system, the gas will have a tendency to sink into any low and enclosed areas.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, propane is an asphyxiant, which cuts off oxygen to the body. Exposure to very high concentrations of propane can cause death by suffocation from lack of oxygen. Exposure to high levels of propane can cause cardiac arrest, incapacitation, unconsciousness or seizures. Direct skin contact with liquid propane can cause frostbite.
Exposure to lower levels of propane can cause damage to the central nervous system, lung congestion, fluid in the lungs, fatigue, decreased night vision, tunnel vision, hallucinations, dizziness, lightheadedness, nausea, vomiting, headache, euphoria, numbness and tingling of arms and legs, hyperventilation, rapid heartbeat, poor judgment, confusion, memory loss, anorexia, nosebleeds, conjunctivitis, weight loss, and skin irritation and discoloration.
These are just a few things to know about propane and potential exposure concerns at home or in the work environment. To learn more about this or other environmental, indoor air quality, occupational, health or safety issues, please visit the websites shown below.