Gasoline and Health

What Does Gasoline Have to Do with Your Health?

Gasoline is dangerous for your health because it’s toxic. Exposure to gasoline, either through physical contact or inhalation, can cause health problems. The effects of gasoline poisoning can harm every major organ. It’s important to practice and enforce safe gasoline handling to prevent poisoning.

Inappropriate gasoline exposure warrants a call for emergency medical help. Call the American Association of Poison Control Centers at 1-800-222-1222 if you believe you or someone you know has gasoline poisoning.

Symptoms of Gasoline Poisoning

Swallowing gasoline can cause a wide range of problems for vital organs. Symptoms of gasoline poisoning may include:

  • difficulty breathing
  • throat pain or burning
  • burning in the esophagus
  • abdominal pain
  • vision loss
  • vomiting with or without blood
  • bloody stools
  • dizziness
  • severe headaches
  • extreme fatigue
  • convulsions
  • body weakness
  • loss of consciousness

When gasoline comes into contact with your skin, you may experience red irritation or burns.

Causes of Gasoline Poisoning

Gasoline is a necessity in many industries. Gas is the primary fuel used to make most engine-powered vehicles work. The hydrocarbon components of gasoline make it poisonous. Hydrocarbons are a type of organic substance made up of hydrogen and carbon molecules. They are part of all sorts of modern substances, including the following:

  • motor oil
  • lamp oil
  • kerosene
  • paint
  • rubber cement
  • lighter fluid

Gasoline contains methane and benzene, which are dangerous hydrocarbons.

Perhaps one of the greatest risks of gasoline exposure is the harm it can do to your lungs when you inhale its fumes. Direct inhalation can cause carbon monoxide poisoning, which is why you shouldn’t run a vehicle in an enclosed area, such as a garage. Long-term exposure in the open can also damage your lungs.

Pumping gasoline into your gas tank isn’t generally harmful. However, accidental liquid exposure can harm your skin.

Accidental gasoline consumption is far more widespread than intentionally swallowing the liquid.

Short-Term Implications

Gasoline can adversely affect your health in both liquid and gas form. Swallowing gasoline can damage the inside of your body and cause permanent damage to major organs. If a person swallows a large amount of gasoline, it can cause death.

Carbon monoxide poisoning is of particular concern. This is especially the case if you work at a job where you operate gasoline-powered machines on a regular basis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), small, gas-powered engines are especially harmful because they emit more poisons. Carbon monoxide is both invisible and odorless, so you may breathe it in large quantities without even knowing it. This can cause permanent brain damage and even death.

Long-Term Implications

Gasoline has health consequences that can last several years. Diesel is another fuel containing hydrocarbons. It’s a byproduct of gasoline, and it’s used primarily in trains, buses, and farm vehicles. When you regularly come into contact with fumes from gasoline or diesel, your lungs may start to deteriorate over time. A 2012 study by the World Health Organization (WHO) found an increased risk of lung cancer in people who are regularly exposed to diesel fumes.

As diesel engines gain popularity because of their energy efficiency, people need to be more aware of their dangers. You should follow these safety measures:

  • Don’t stand by exhaust pipes.
  • Don’t stand around gas fumes.
  • Don’t operate engines in enclosed areas.

Getting Emergency Help

Swallowing gasoline or excessive exposure to fumes warrants a visit to the emergency room or a call to a local poison control center. Make sure the person sits up and drinks water unless instructed not to do so. Ensure they’re in an area with fresh air.

Be sure to take these precautions:

  • Don’t force vomiting.
  • Don’t give the victim milk.
  • Don’t give liquids to an unconscious victim.
  • Don’t leave the victim and yourself exposed to gasoline fumes.
  • Don’t attempt to remedy the situation yourself. Always call for help first.

Outlook for Someone Who Has Been Poisoned by Gasoline

The outlook for gasoline poisoning depends on the amount of exposure and how quickly you get treatment. The faster you get treatment, the more likely you are to recover without significant injury. However, gasoline exposure always has the potential to cause problems in the lungs, mouth, and stomach.

Gasoline has undergone many changes to become less carcinogenic, but there are still major health risks associated with it. Always act with care when exposed to liquid gasoline and gasoline fumes. If you suspect any exposure to the skin or if you think an excess amount has been inhaled, you should call the American Association of Poison Control Centers at 1-800-222-1222.

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