Gasoline exposure can cause problems with your lungs, mouth, and stomach. It can also irritate or burn your skin. The severity depends on how long you’ve been exposed and the amount you were exposed to.

Gasoline is toxic. Exposure to it, either through inhalation or physical contact, can cause health problems.

It’s important to practice and enforce safe gasoline handling to prevent poisoning. The effects of gasoline poisoning can harm every major organ.

If you think you have gasoline poisoning

Inappropriate gasoline exposure warrants a call for emergency medical help. If you believe gasoline poisoning has occurred and you live in the United States or one of its territories, call the American Association of Poison Control Centers at 800-222-1222.

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

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

Gasoline contains methane and benzene, which are hydrocarbons.

Hydrocarbons are a type of dangerous organic substance made up of hydrogen and carbon molecules. Hydrocarbons are part of all sorts of modern substances, including:

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

The hydrocarbons are the reason why gasoline is poisonous. However, not all forms of gasoline exposure will lead to gasoline poisoning.

Pumping gasoline into your gas tank isn’t generally harmful. But accidentally touching liquid gasoline can harm your skin.

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.

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

Gasoline in both liquid and gas forms can adversely affect your health.

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 even cause death.

Carbon monoxide poisoning is of particular concern, especially if you have 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 high amounts of carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is both invisible and odorless, so you may breathe in large quantities without even knowing it. This can cause permanent brain damage and death.

Some recent research has suggested that diesel, a byproduct of gasoline, increases the risk of lung cancer.

In 2012, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a division of the World Health Organization (WHO), classified diesel as carcinogenic to humans. More recent studies have reinforced the IARC’s findings.

When you regularly come into contact with fumes from diesel or gasoline, your lungs may start to deteriorate over time.

Diesel is used primarily as fuel for trains, buses, and farm vehicles.

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

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

Swallowing gasoline or excessive exposure to fumes warrants a visit to the emergency room or a call to a local poison control center. Until help arrives, the person should sit up and drink water unless instructed not to do so. Ensure that they’re in an area with fresh air.

Be sure to take these precautions as well:

In case of emergency

  • Don’t attempt to remedy the situation yourself. Always call for help first.
  • Don’t force vomiting.
  • Don’t give the person milk.
  • Don’t give liquids to an unconscious person.
  • Don’t leave the person and yourself exposed to gasoline fumes.
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The outlook for gasoline poisoning depends on the amount of exposure and how quickly a person gets 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, call your local poison control center.