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I think I was posioned by natural gas....
Old 07-16-2006, 10:34 PM   #1
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I think I was posioned by natural gas....

I was working for 4 hours in a hosue I just bought. I kept smelling something funny, but summed it up as bad B.O. 5 minutes after I left, I felt a bit dizzy, very sore, and had a sore throat. I got some OJ and went to bed. I awoke with a headache, stuffy nose, and REALLY sore. I had to leave work early that day.

The next day I felt a bit better, and even better today. Still a bit stuffed up. I went to the house today and was hit in the face with the odor. After a quick investigation, I capped a gas line that had a leaky valve...and no more odor. I will get the gas co out later to check though.

Think it was the natural gas? I always hear about Co2 poisoning, but isnt that AFTER its burned?
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Re: I think I was posioned by natural gas....
Old 07-16-2006, 10:49 PM   #2
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Re: I think I was posioned by natural gas....

I would think it would be hard to ignore the smell of natural gas if it existed in concentrations high enough to make you sick--but I suppose it could sneak up on you. Smells are like that--the sensors in your nose get bound-up with the particular chemicals they are sensitive to, and they only send the signal that we interpret as a particular odor when a new molecule binds to the sensor. After they get "full", there aren't many signals going to your brain to let you know that that scent is still there. (This is one reason that folks who really do smell bad often don't know it). The mercaptan odor they add to natural gas is powerful stuff.

The poisonous gas you are probably thinking about which results from burning hydrocarbons is carbon monoxide (CO). CO binds to your blood's hemoglobin very tightly, preventing it from carrying oxygen to your cells. If you are doing repair work in older homes, you should install a CO detector in the house (every home with combustion appliances or an attached garage should have one). At the very least, get a portable one to take with you. Also--I strongly recommend that you buy only the ones with a digital readout of CO level--it will save you a lot of trouble with false alarms, etc.

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Re: I think I was posioned by natural gas....
Old 07-16-2006, 11:56 PM   #3
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Re: I think I was posioned by natural gas....

Two dangers from natural gas that I know of:

Asphyxiation. Natural gas (which has no oxygen in it) displaces air (which has about 21% oxygen in it). At low oxygen levels--it doesn't take much!--you can't think straight and at something like 10%, you have passed out long ago and die. (I have been looking for a reference that gives more detail, but no joy yet.)

According to one reference:

"Symptoms of overexposure can include shortness of breath, drowsiness, headaches, confusion, decreased coordination, visual disturbances and vomiting, and are reversible if exposure is stopped. Continued exposure can lead to hypoxia (inadequate oxygen), cyanosis (bluish discoloration of the skin), numbness of the extremities, unconsciousness and death."

High altitude sickness is similar.

In order to dilute the oxygen down to 10%, you have to have equal parts of air and natural gas. That is, the natural gas is about 50% of what you would breath in.

explosion and fire. Before you have that little oxygen, natural gas can explode if there is only about 4% in the air. Turning on a light switch is all that it would take to ignite it. 17% natural gas is too rich to explode.

There is a lot of good stuff on the safety issues with chemicals in a standard document called an "MSDS"--material safety data sheet. In your favorite search engine type "msds natural gas", for example and you can get a specific sheet.

I would say you were very lucky, fed.
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Re: I think I was posioned by natural gas....
Old 07-17-2006, 06:01 AM   #4
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Re: I think I was posioned by natural gas....

Fed you are one lucky SOB, one spark and you could have blown yourself and your investment to kingdom come. Dh worked for a prophane co for 12 years, he said you just used 2 of your 9 lives.
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Re: I think I was posioned by natural gas....
Old 07-17-2006, 07:38 AM   #5
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Re: I think I was posioned by natural gas....

Not sure if they were talking about natural gas but I saw on the news yesterday that a gas leak smells like rotten eggs. It was on the news after that DR blew himself up in his brownstone by turning on the gas and lighting it. Blew up the entire building but looked like little damage to the homes attached to his. He died Sunday from his injuries.
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Re: I think I was posioned by natural gas....
Old 07-17-2006, 07:45 AM   #6
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Re: I think I was posioned by natural gas....

Arif,

Yes, it was natural gas. Clean natural gas has no smell by itself. The gas companies add traces of a sulfur compound so that people have a chance of knowing that there is a gas leak by smell. Anyone who works or lives around natural gas needs to know this smell.

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Re: I think I was posioned by natural gas....
Old 07-17-2006, 07:50 AM   #7
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Re: I think I was posioned by natural gas....

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ed_The_Gypsy
Anyone who works or lives around natural gas needs to know this smell.
Along with the perils associated with the phrase "pull my finger."

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Re: I think I was posioned by natural gas....
Old 07-17-2006, 07:55 AM   #8
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Re: I think I was posioned by natural gas....

Do yourself a favor: next time you smell that odor, get the hell out of there and call the gas company or fire department. Immediately. And don't light any matches .

Nothing personal, but that was not a real "efficient" reaction to what could have been a fatal situation . Consider it a lesson learned.

Glad you're OK. You coulda been history.
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Re: I think I was posioned by natural gas....
Old 07-17-2006, 09:00 AM   #9
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Re: I think I was posioned by natural gas....

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rich_in_Tampa
Do yourself a favor: next time you smell that odor, get the hell out of there and call the gas company or fire department. Immediately. And don't light any matches .

Nothing personal, but that was not a real "efficient" reaction to what could have been a fatal situation . Consider it a lesson learned.

Glad you're OK. You coulda been history.
what's more efficient than running to my van,grabbing a brass fitting and some pipe dope and fixing it?
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Re: I think I was posioned by natural gas....
Old 07-17-2006, 09:30 AM   #10
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Re: I think I was posioned by natural gas....

Quote:
Originally Posted by thefed
what's more efficient than running to my van,grabbing a brass fitting and some pipe dope and fixing it?
Just teasing you out of concern, bad choice of words on my part ("efficient"). For me, efficiency in that scenario is to get out and stay out, call the FD or gas company.

My understanding is that natural gas leaks can ignite or explode from even small sparks: light switch, static electricity, etc. Not to mention that you can slip into unconsciousness very easily from gas/carbon monoxide/low oxygen exposure. You were sick enough to suggest you'd already had a bit of a dose, and your symptoms did suggest carbon monoxide poisoning.

You certainly know a lot more about natural gas repairs than I do (considering that I know nothing at all about it), but I've seen accidental carbon monoxide deaths, propane tank explosion victims and the like. Not pretty, hope never to see it again.

Glad you're fine.
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Re: I think I was posioned by natural gas....
Old 07-17-2006, 10:08 AM   #11
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Re: I think I was posioned by natural gas....

Quote:
summed it up as bad B.O.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg BeaverGasLeak.jpg (14.7 KB, 120 views)
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Re: I think I was posioned by natural gas....
Old 07-17-2006, 10:11 AM   #12
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Re: I think I was posioned by natural gas....

We had a natural gas scare on our block a year ago. Gas company guys confirmed the odor which was quite strong. They were on the verge of evacuating the block when one of them said, "Smells like insecticide."

A door-to-door check revealed that my neighbor had been hording diazanon (no longer sold or legal to use) and doused his entire foundation with it earlier that day. The odor was indistinguishable.
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Re: I think I was posioned by natural gas....
Old 07-17-2006, 10:12 AM   #13
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Re: I think I was posioned by natural gas....

A while ago I could smell gas near my propane tank, and had the gas company's guy come and check it out. * The funny thing was that he couldn't smell it. *Years in the business of tracking down gas leaks had caused him to habitutate to the odor, so he couldn't even detect it. *A spray of soapy water let me locate the leak, however.
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Re: I think I was posioned by natural gas....
Old 07-17-2006, 10:21 AM   #14
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Re: I think I was posioned by natural gas....

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rich_in_Tampa
Just teasing you out of concern, bad choice of words on my part ("efficient"). For me, efficiency in that scenario is to get out and stay out, call the FD or gas company.
Death can be awfully inefficient
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Re: I think I was posioned by natural gas....
Old 07-17-2006, 10:05 PM   #15
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Re: I think I was posioned by natural gas....

Guy in my neighborhood had a small pickup that ran on propane.

One night he parked the truck in the garage, tank had a small leak that filled the garage.

Compressor on freezer in garage kicked on and BOOM. Blew the garage off the foundation and separated it from the home.

Didn't cause any fire but I bet he didn't need an alarm clock for the next few days.
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Re: I think I was posioned by natural gas....
Old 07-18-2006, 12:03 AM   #16
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Re: I think I was posioned by natural gas....

Quote:
Originally Posted by thefed
I was working for 4 hours in a hosue I just bought.* I kept smelling something funny, but summed it up as bad B.O.* 5 minutes after I left, I felt a bit dizzy, very sore, and had a sore throat.* I got some OJ and went to bed.* I awoke with a headache, stuffy nose, and REALLY sore.* I had to leave work early that day.

The next day I felt a bit better, and even better today.* Still a bit stuffed up.* I went to the house today and was hit in the face with the odor.* After a quick investigation, I capped a gas line that had a leaky valve...and no more odor.* I will get the gas co out later to check though.

Think it was the natural gas?* I always hear about Co2 poisoning, but isnt that AFTER its burned?
I don't think Natural Gas had anything to do with your feeling ill.* Ethyl Mercaptan, the odorant added to NG, was chosen for it's special characteristics. The nose can detect EM at a fraction of a part per billion! And you do not get desensitized to the smell by exposure.

Before the NG could get up to the levels to become explosive, you would be just about puking your guts out due to the EM concentration!

Most accidental NG explosions are caused by sudden release of main-pressurized gas.
Like a backhoe cutting a main.
Like two plumbers installing an industrial water heater in a new major building, and turning on the line uncapped. Letting it "blow all the crud out" before they plumb it up to the heater. And suddenly, whoosh! 100% gas at high volume.

The residential gas piping after the regulator is very low pressure. So low, that it is measured in a couple inches of Water Column (WC). You can put a thumb over an open pipe, and block it off with almost no thumb pressure at all. It fairly floats through the pipe. That is why pipe sizing is important to feed a furnace, water heater, etc. Even a few feet of flexible brass connector can reduce the flow so much, that you have to watch the diameter to length on flexible connectors.

You also felt ill 5 minutes after you left the environment.
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Re: I think I was posioned by natural gas....
Old 07-18-2006, 03:56 PM   #17
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Re: I think I was posioned by natural gas....

Quote:
Originally Posted by Telly
I don't think Natural Gas had anything to do with your feeling ill. Ethyl Mercaptan, the odorant added to NG, was chosen for it's special characteristics. The nose can detect EM at a fraction of a part per billion! And you do not get desensitized to the smell by exposure.

Before the NG could get up to the levels to become explosive, you would be just about puking your guts out due to the EM concentration!

Most accidental NG explosions are caused by sudden release of main-pressurized gas.
Like a backhoe cutting a main.
Like two plumbers installing an industrial water heater in a new major building, and turning on the line uncapped. Letting it "blow all the crud out" before they plumb it up to the heater. And suddenly, whoosh! 100% gas at high volume.

The residential gas piping after the regulator is very low pressure. So low, that it is measured in a couple inches of Water Column (WC). You can put a thumb over an open pipe, and block it off with almost no thumb pressure at all. It fairly floats through the pipe. That is why pipe sizing is important to feed a furnace, water heater, etc. Even a few feet of flexible brass connector can reduce the flow so much, that you have to watch the diameter to length on flexible connectors.

You also felt ill 5 minutes after you left the environment.
You seem to have a reason why it wasnt natural gas...any ideas what it was?lol

I find it hard to believe that i could've felt super before i got there, worked in natural gas for a few hours, and left feeling sick...and the nat gas didnt have anything to do with it. it is possible though.
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Re: I think I was posioned by natural gas....
Old 07-18-2006, 04:32 PM   #18
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Re: I think I was posioned by natural gas....

My 80-y.o. MIL had something on the stove where the burner went out but the gas was still running and she didn't notice. She went to bed. She half woke up during the night feeling horrible and with a tremendous headache. She claimed later not to have noticed any smell (the 'habituation' mentioned previously?).

She said prayers and prepared to die.

A neighbor in the apt. bldg. returning home at 1 or 2 am noticed the smell of gas and immediately called the fire department. (Note: this neighbor knew enough NOT to ring the doorbell for fear of sparks).

We are not exactly sure of the remaining sequence of events as we were informed significantly after the fact. I think the FD got a key from someone and came in. But even the turn of a key could set off an explosion if the concentration is great enough.

We were in the US at the time, and immediately started researching a kind of stove that is now almost obligatory on new gas stoves in Italy.. one that has a sensor that determines the lack of flame and shuts off the gas automatically. We bought one and had it shipped to her.. now she complains how hard it is to get to light!!!

She could easily have died if it weren't for that neighbor.

Many gas-explosion tragedies happen in Italy each year: far more than I ever heard about in the US. Level of occurence or level of reporting?

Whether you have the new-fangled auto-shut-off stove or not.. EVERY gas stove here has a very obvious valve nearby that you can turn on when you need to cook, and shut off when you are done. (I never saw this in the US; there the gas was always 'hard-wired', or in the rare case that there was a valve, it was hidden behind the stove.)

1.) it certainly is possible to have a lethal or near-lethal build-up in just a few hours of low-level gas escape (i.e., one stove burner on low or medium in a completely uninsulated, un'sealed' 1000 s.f. apt.).
2.) You may well NOT smell it after time... especially older people whose sense of smell may be diminished. There definitely is a kind of built-up 'resistance' to smells... Ask anyone who doesn't have a dog or smoke who has been in our car.. smells Ok to us!!!

the fed, from what you describe, it was indeed the gas.

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Re: I think I was posioned by natural gas....
Old 07-18-2006, 05:40 PM   #19
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Re: I think I was posioned by natural gas....

Quote:
Originally Posted by ladelfina
Many gas-explosion tragedies happen in Italy each year: far more than I ever heard about in the US. Level of occurence or level of reporting?
I think everyone in Europe (and other countries) must have a gas stove. Hardly anyone in the US does. Don't know why. Just based on anecdotal evidence.
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Re: I think I was posioned by natural gas....
Old 07-19-2006, 01:09 AM   #20
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Re: I think I was posioned by natural gas....

Justin,

Not true. Lots of electric "hobs" in Europe, especially in older homes.
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