A closer look at three common yet dangerous chemicals
Advances in chemical science help make our lives easier, but those same chemicals can also pose a real threat to your health and survival if they are not properly controlled. Many of these gases are completely invisible to the naked eye and can overwhelm victims before they realize there is a problem. Understanding the sources and effects of the most common toxic gases can save your life.
Carbon monoxide is a by-product of burning organic materials, in particular gasoline and kerosene. Operating gas-powered appliances, heaters or machinery indoors without proper ventilation can cause a buildup of carbon monoxide in an enclosed space. When inhaled, carbon monoxide blocks off the oxygen receptors in red blood cells, causing you to suffocate despite being able to breathe. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include nausea, headaches, confusion, blurred vision, and in acute cases, loss of consciousness.
Hydrogen sulfide is a naturally occurring compound, commonly found around crude oils, natural gas and hot springs. While invisible, it has a telltale, “rotten egg” smell that can alert you to its presence. Take caution: hydrogen sulfide is extremely flammable, and in high amounts, can be lethal in just a few breaths. If you suspect there is a hydrogen sulfide leak, try to evacuate to fresh air immediately.
Methane, like carbon monoxide, is both colorless and odorless. In fact, in industrial settings like natural gas production, sulfur is added to methane in order to give it a detectable order. While not directly toxic to the human body, methane in the air means your body cannot take in as much oxygen, which can result in suffocation if not addressed. Methane is also highly combustible, presenting an explosion risk.
Proper ventilation is the best defense against accidents involving toxic gases. Whenever possible, machinery or tools that produce toxic gases should only be used outdoors. If you must be indoors, make sure to install an efficient venting setup, and keep it maintained and inspected annually. Detection equipment can also help, but is not a foolproof solution, so take extreme care whenever toxic gases are involved.
When an airborne chemical is the cause of an injury or death, it can be difficult to identify the source without proper testing and investigation. They encourage any victim of chemical exposure to seek out legal advice and representation, as they may be eligible for compensation for medical costs, as well as pain and suffering. The attorneys at Mallon & McCool, LLC, have extensive experience with toxic tort and chemical exposure cases. Their law offices are located at 300 East Lombard Street in Baltimore, Maryland.