One of the most hazardous substances consumers routinely handle is gasoline. People tend to take it for granted since it is so familiar, but it poses a variety of hazards.
Gasoline is poisonous if swallowed. If you accidentally swallow it call a doctor at once and do not induce vomiting. If you get gasoline in your eyes, flush with water for at least 15 minutes and call a doctor. On your skin, prolonged or repeated contact can lead to irritation or dermatitis.
Breathing gasoline fumes also is dangerous. Exposure to vapor concentrations can cause respiratory irritation, headache, dizziness, nausea, and loss of coordination. Higher concentrations can cause loss of consciousness, cardiac sensitization, coma and fatal respiratory failure.
Gasoline is highly flammable and easily ignited. In fact, a single cup of gasoline has the explosive power of five sticks of dynamite. A few basic principles for gasoline safety include:
- Never smoke within 50 ft of gasoline.
- Never refuel a hot engine or an engine that is running. Shut down the engine and let it cool for at least 10 minutes. The highest temperatures reached by a small engine occur immediately after shutdown, so it is not safe to refuel immediately afterwards.
- Use only approved gasoline containers. When transporting containers, be sure they are secured in the vehicle. Fill containers no more than 95 percent, to allow room for thermal expansion. Be sure your containers have secure lids.
- Never remove the cap from a gasoline tank while the engine is hot. Combustible vapor can escape the contact manifolds, exhaust pipes and other hot engines parts.
- Do not leave gasoline containers in direct sunlight or in the trunk of the car.
- Never store gasoline containers, or equipment with gasoline tanks, near a flame. Many Southern homes have natural-gas water heaters or furnaces located in storage rooms; never store gasoline-powered equipment in the same room.
A spark from static electricity can ignite gasoline. Static electricity is more of a problem when humidity is low, but consumers always should be aware of the potential problem.
- Avoid sliding on or off the seat of mower or tractor while fueling- a static charge and spark can result.
- Place your hand on the metal part of the machine, away from the fuel tank, to discharge any static electricity before you open the fuel tank or fuel can.
- When filling gasoline containers at a service station, place the container on the ground. Do not leave it in the bed of the truck or vehicle. Hold the nozzle in constant contact with the container.
- Do not use electronic equipment such as cell phones near gasoline; a spark from the electronics could ignite the gasoline.