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Natural Gas: Used for heating homes and running appliances such as water heaters and stoves. It contains methane (also known as swamp gas or marsh gas), which is a hydrocarbon. Methane occurs naturally in the earth's crust and is also formed by decaying organic matter such as manure or sewage. Natural gas has no odour; mercaptans (which smell like rotten eggs) are added in low concentrations so that leaks can be detected. Natural gas is highly flammable and will spontaneously combust if there is a source of ignition. Natural gas becomes a liquid at - 120 degrees Celsius and is called LNG (liquefied natural gas).
Is it toxic?: Considered a simple asphyxiant, which means it displaces oxygen from the air. If there is a leak into a small-enclosed space the resulting lack of oxygen may cause symptoms of hypoxia. Incomplete combustion of natural gas (from a malfunctioning furnace) can produce carbon monoxide.
Skin: Exposure to compressed or liquid forms can result in frostbite. Symptoms include a pale or blanched appearance to skin, numbness and blisters.
Inhalation: A natural gas leak in an outdoor environment is usually not concentrated enough to cause symptoms. A leak into a small-enclosed space can result in a lack of oxygen in the air and symptoms of hypoxia. These include headache, decreased vision, fatigue, shortness of breath and loss of consciousness.
What to do:
If you smell gas or hear the flow of escaping gas, follow these steps immediately: