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Health Effects Of Gas Leak And How It Can Be Prevented

The styrene gas that got leaked from LG Polymers in Vizag, Andhra Pradesh on Thursday morning has affected over 5,000 people and the death toll mounts to 10. LG Polymers, a chemical plant manufactures polystyrene, high impact polystyrene and coloured polystyrene. Polystyrene is a versatile plastic used to make different varieties of consumer products.

What Is Styrene?

Styrene, also known as vinylbenzene, ethylbenzene, cinnamene, or phenylethylene is a synthetic chemical, which has the texture of a colourless liquid that evaporates easily and has a sweet smell. It also gives out an unpleasant smell if styrene contains other chemicals.

Styrene is used to make various products such as rubber, plastic, fibreglass, pipes, automobile parts, insulation, food containers and carpet backing [1].

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Health Effects Of Styrene

Styrene is highly flammable and releases a poisonous gas when burnt and when inhaled it can cause a burning sensation in the eyes, difficulty in breathing, nausea, dizziness, gastrointestinal problems, headache and several other such complications, warn experts [2].

A study showed that accidental exposure to high concentrations of styrene in drinking tap water led to the appearance of symptoms such as throat, nose, eyes and skin irritation and gastrointestinal problems in people who drank tap water [3].

Accidental gas leakages not only occur in chemical plants but also occur in our homes. Many households use natural gas for heating and running appliances such as stove and water heaters, which can cause accidental gas leakage.

One can detect a gas leak from the smell of sulphur or rotten eggs, a hissing or whistling sound near a gas line, bubbles in water, a white cloud near a gas line and dead house plants.

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Health Effects Of Gas Leak

Exposure to low levels of natural gas can cause the following health problems: [4]

• Headache
• Dizziness
• Fatigue
• Nausea
• Difficulty in breathing

Exposure to high levels of natural gas can cause the following health problems:[4]

• Death by suffocation
• Nausea
• Loss of consciousness
• Fatigue
• Memory problems
• Severe headache
• Lack of coordination


What To Do If You Suspect A Gas Leak

If you experience headache, fatigue, difficulty in breathing, vomiting and a change in your mood, open the windows and leave the house immediately. Call the local fire department as soon as you leave the house. Make sure that you make the phone call far away from the area that has a gas leak as phones can ignite the gas.

If your health is deteriorating after you return home, seek medical help immediately.

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What Not To Do If You Suspect A Gas Leak

If you suspect a gas leak you shouldn't do the following things:

• Turn the lights on or off
• Keep the doors closed
• Try to repair the leak
• Make phone calls from your home
• Use household appliances


How To Prevent Gas Leaks?

• Stay well-informed about the signs and symptoms of gas leaks and teach your family members about natural gas safety.

• Make sure that gas pipelines and gas-burning appliances are inspected every year by a certified inspector.

• Ensure adequate ventilation around the gas-burning appliances and gas equipment.

• As gas leaks are highly flammable, it is advisable to keep a fire extinguisher.

• Install smoke alarms in your room.

Common FAQs

1. Can breathing in natural gas harm you?

A. Inhaling a high concentration of natural gas can lead to chest pain, fatigue and difficulty in breathing. If you are unable to breathe in oxygen and breathing in the poisonous gas could eventually kill you.

2. Can a gas leak make you sleepy?

A. You may experience fatigue if you are exposed to a gas leak because your body is deprived of oxygen.

3. What are the long term effects of natural gas exposure?

A. Long-term exposure to natural gas can cause respiratory problems, depression, mood changes and will further deteriorate your health.

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