Natural Gas Facts

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How is Natural Methane Gas Used in Homes?

In the home, natural gas is used in many of these appliances:

  • Gas Clothes Dryers
  • Gas Heating
  • Gas Water Heaters
  • Gas Stoves
  • Gas Fireplaces
  • Gas Fire Pits

Natural Gas Components

Natural gas occurs in reservoirs underground and varies in its chemical makeup. The components of natural gas generally include:

  • Methane (CH4)
  • Ethane (C2H6)
  • Propane (C3H8)
  • Butane (C4H10)
  • Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
  • Oxygen (O2)
  • Nitrogen (N2)
  • Hydrogen Sulphide (H2S)
  • Traces Other Rare gases (A, He, Ne, Xe)

Gas production companies bring this natural gas from reservoirs underground and it is then put through a refining process to remove most of the elements except for Methane and Ethane. This resulting gas is nearly undetectable because it is colorless and odorless, and it must go through further refining before it is delivered for use in the home.

Natural Gas and Mercaptan

Natural Gas is odorless; therefore, an additive that causes a “rotten egg” smell when the gas is in the air is mixed with the methane before the natural gas is delivered to the general public.

This additive is called Mercaptan (Methanethiol: CH3SH). Mercaptan occurs naturally in marshes, natural gas in some areas, and in some crude oils. Mercaptan is highly flammable and at very high concentrations it is highly toxic and affects the central nervous system.

Mercaptan is meant to provide an opportunity for easy detection of high levels of natural gas when a leak occurs. Because of the strong smell of Mercaptan, the gas leak becomes very noticeable in the instance of a large gas leak, but it can still go undetected if there is a low grade gas leak.

Natural Gas Safety

Natural gas has been used in many homes in the civilized world for decades. Though the convenience of cooking and heating inside the home is a remarkable benefit to civilized living, natural gas has its own dark secret. We are told that methane gas is “safe”. There are extensive tests to prove that acute exposures are bad causing asphyxiation, and that it is highly flammable. These facts are well communicated as a precaution to using natural gas.

It is true that many people use natural gas safely everyday but the Material Safety Data (MSDS) documentation on Natural Gas/ Methane, communicates that this gas has NEVER been tested for safety for “Long-term, Low-level” exposure. In other words, the gas purveyors advertise and promote methane gas as a safe product, but tests have never been done to prove whether or not the product really is safe under various exposure rates with the exception of acute exposures.

The province of Nova Scotia sponsored a study to examine the long term effects of natural gas exposure to a specific community. A medical facility had had problems with gas exposure and the study reviewed the health of the exposed workers as well as others in the community who regularly use methane in their homes. This study was headed up by Dr. Gerald Ross, who was trained and partnered with environmental illness expert Dr. Rea of Dallas.

This was the best information I could find on natural gas exposure affirming its negative effects:

My research also turned up reports of health problems caused by natural gas in Africa and that as other nations become more civilized and move indoors, the cases of asthma increased.

Mercaptan Safety

I discovered that the additive Mercaptan has a sordid safety record. The methyl mercaptan MSDS read as follows:

“May be absorbed trough the skin… Causes gastrointestinal irritation with nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. May cause liver and kidney damage. May cause central nervous system depression. Mercaptans may cause nausea and headache. Exposure to high concentrations of mercaptans can produce unconsciousness with cyanosis (bluish discoloration of skin due to deficient oxygenation of the blood), cold extremities and rapid pulse… Exposure to high concentrations of mercaptans can produce unconsciousness with cyanosis (bluish discoloration of skin due to deficient oxygenation of the blood), cold extremities and rapid pulse…”

Voilá! Mercaptan is a nerve toxin, causes nausea and much more! Deficiency in oxygen would explain my son's high red blood cell count and the headaches were accounted for too. Digestive issues are mentioned as well and his blood work had shown some liver enzyme elevation, but most doctors overlook these test results unless they are severe. The treatment suggestions on the MSDS were simply to manage the symptoms and nothing more.

All rights reserved © Suki Reed, 2007