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What is it?

Methane is a colorless and extremely flammable gas that can explode when mixed with air. It is the primary component of natural gas.

Natural sources of methane include termites, bodies of water, wildfires, and digestive processes of animals. Methane is released from coal deposits during underground and surface mining and from decomposition of waste.

Methane is emitted from burning gasoline and fossil fuels, including coal, natural gas, and oil, and from hydraulic fracturing, landfills, and coal-fired power plants.

Methane is a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.

See also: Power Plants Trash Factories Gas Station Wastewater Treatment/ Wastewater Air Pollution Agriculture Mines Fuel Industry

Where is Methane found?

  • Air – from vehicle exhaust, oil and gas fields, coal mines, coal-fired power plants, landfills, and farms
  • Consumer products – water heaters, stoves, and clothes dryers that are fueled by natural gas

How can I be exposed to Methane?

Methane commonly enter(s) the body through:

Inhalation (breathing)
  • Breathing vehicle exhaust and emissions from farms, landfills, and use of fossil fuels
Skin contact
  • Touching liquefied methane

What happens when I am exposed to Methane?

Skin contact with liquefied methane can cause:

  • Frostbite
  • Skin and eye burns

Exposure to high levels of methane can cause:

  • Suffocation
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Headache and dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Loss of coordination
  • Increased breathing rate

Who is at risk for exposure to Methane?

  • Consumers
    • Everyone is exposed to low levels of methane in outdoor air. Some home appliances may emit methane.
  • Farmers
    • Methane is emitted from animal digestion and waste.

Reduce your risk

If you think your health has been affected by exposure to methane, contact your health care professional.

Always wash your hands thoroughly after handling chemicals. For poisoning emergencies or questions about possible poisons, please contact your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.

  • How frequently are you exposed to vehicle exhaust or gas stations?
  • Do you live near a busy highway?
  • Do you live near an oil or gas field, coal mine, abandoned mine, farm, landfill, wastewater treatment plant, or coal-fired power plant?
  • Do you use natural gas for heating or cooking?
  • Limit your time near idling cars, trucks, and buses.
  • If you live on a farm, make sure all pits and manure storage areas are properly ventilated.
  • Post warning signs to keep people away from confined spaces on a farm.
  • Don’t let children play near gas stations, idling cars, or busy highways.
  • Keep children away from fuel-burning appliances.
  • Methane. Hazardous Substance Factsheet (New Jersey Department of Health)

    Factsheet on methane that includes information on exposure, associated health hazards, workplace controls and practices, and glossary.

  • Greenhouse Gases (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

    Information on how greenhouse gases function, including the specific processes of water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, tropospheric ozone, nitrous oxide, chlorofluorocarbons, carbon monoxide, and other reactive gases, as well as links to additional resources on climate change, greenhouse gases, and global warming.

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