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Published on Feb 15, 2017
From each barrel of crude oil, refineries in the United States produce approximately 19 gallons of automotive gasoline. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that in 2015, over 140 billion gallons of gasoline were consumed in the United States alone.
As a fuel, gasoline is used to power everything from cars, boats and some trucks to lawn mowers, recreational vehicles and generators. Gasoline can also be used as a solvent.
Chemical additives are often added to gasoline to prevent engine knocking, increase octane ratings, reduce pollution and for other purposes. In many parts of the country, ethanol is now also added to gasoline.
In addition to concerns over greenhouse gases and particulate matter produced from using combustion engines powered by gasoline, exposure to gasoline and its vapors is also a potential health issue.
The Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry (ATSDR) reports that in addition to the fact that inhaling or swallowing large amounts of gasoline can cause death, “Inhaling high concentrations of gasoline is irritating to the lungs when breathed in and irritating to the lining of the stomach when swallowed. Gasoline is also a skin irritant. Breathing in high levels of gasoline for short periods or swallowing large amounts of gasoline may also cause harmful effects on the nervous system. Serious nervous system effects include coma and the inability to breathe, while less serious effects include dizziness and headaches.”
Tox Town, hosted by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, states, “Inhaling or swallowing small amounts of gasoline can cause muscle weakness, cramps, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, confusion, disorientation, slurred speech, feelings of intoxication, irregular heartbeat, insomnia, irritation of the stomach lining, and swelling and irritation of the nose and throat. Direct eye contact with gasoline may cause permanent eye damage.”
Fortunately, most people are not frequently exposed directly to gasoline or high vapor levels, but workers in some occupations and industries could be at increased risk of these exposure hazards (potential occupational carcinogen).
These are just a few things to know about potential exposure concerns to gasoline. To learn more about this or other occupational, environmental, air quality, health or safety issues, please visit the websites shown below.