Methane is one of the most abundant gasses on earth. It is a colorless and odorless gas with low density than air. In fact methane is one of the components of natural gas. Methane is buried under the earth in vast amount, however in air its amount is relatively less. In normal environmental condition, presence of small amount of methane does not produce any harm to the body. But exposure to large amount can be detrimental to health.
There are several ways a person can be exposed to excess of methane gas.For example while extraction from earth, emission from industries, from decomposition of plants and animals or waste matter, rotten food in your kitchen etc.
Methane when burned in presence of oxygen releases carbon dioxide and water. Therefore methane is one of the gasses to cause greenhouse effect that leads to global warming. The symptoms of exposure to methane gas are usually slow to develop as methane is less dense than air.
Effects Of Exposure To Methane Gas
Exposure to large amount of methane gas can have potential adverse health effect. It may depend on the way a person is exposed and the amount of exposure.It has to be remembered that high level of methane deprives oxygen from air and from the body leading to suffocation. Some of the symptoms produced by methane exposure are:
- Suffocation: Breathing high level of methane can deprive the body of oxygen as it displaces it. As a result patient experiences difficulty in breathing and becomes suffocated.
- Dehydration: As methane gas in absorbed in the body through airway, it depletes oxygen from the system. Body tries to compensate the loss by using oxygen from body fluids. The result is patient becomes dehydrated.
- Headache: Oxygen deprivation and dehydration can result in combined effect to produce severe headache.
- Nausea and vomiting: Methane poisoning produces nausea and vomiting.
- Frostbite: Methane when comes in contact with a person’s skin in liquid form causes frostbite.
- Blurred vision: Methane poisoning can result in blurred vision. The symptoms reduce when patient moves away from the area of exposure.
- Mental agitation and slurred speech are common with exposure to high concentration of methane gas.
- Memory loss, poor judgment, is cognitive effect after methane exposure.
- Severe symptoms of methane poisoning are rapid heartbeat, loss of consciousness, coma and death.
How Do You Get Exposed To Methane Gas?
- A person can be exposed to methane gas in many ways. One of the commonest ways is through inhalation of concentrated methane from air. Since there is large amount of methane below the surface of earth, a person may be accidentally exposed to large amount while doing underground extraction.
- Methane is also used for industrial purposes. Accidental leakage of methane gas can cause harm to people in the area around its leakage.
- A large amount of methane is released from rubbish in landfills. This gas can seep into the house from through cracks and fissures from the basement if a house is built at such sites.
- Sewer workers are at risk of methane gas poisoning as one of the components of sewer gases is methane. Accidental sewer gas poisoning can occur if a person falls in sewer.
- You are at risk of methane exposure if you pile up large amount of rotten food in your kitchen as methane is released from it.
- Methane is excellent fuel for cooking. It is supplied through pipeline from the reservoir of natural gas. Methane poisoning can occur if there is leakage from the pipeline.
Treatment For Methane Gas Exposure
Methane poisoning symptoms have symptom similarity with many other disorders; therefore it becomes difficult for a person to pinpoint the cause, unless he is sure of exposure to methane gas. One of the safest ways when in doubt is to consult a medical professional or rush to emergency room to prevent damage to your lungs and other vital organs.
Move away from the area of exposure immediately even if you have mild symptoms after exposure to methane. Look for a wider space full of air. If you suspect leakage in your kitchen open the windows and before leaving.
Person with methane poisoning needs to be treated in a hospital set up. He will be supplied immediately with oxygen with oxygen mask over his mouth and nose. The medical attendant will also introduce intravenous drip to prevent dehydration.