What Are the Dangers of Jet Fuel Exposure?

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Working daily with jet fuel puts people at greater risk of suffering chemical and physical burns. Jet fuel also gives off many chemicals that can damage the lungs and brain. Large and consistent exposures are needed to produce the worst health outcomes, but all people should be careful around the substance that most often comes in formulations labeled JP 5 and JP 8.FlammabilityFlammabilityFlammability.

What Are the Dangers of Jet Fuel Exposure?
What Are the Dangers of Jet Fuel Exposure? (Image: Ozgur Coskun/iStock/Getty Images)

Flammability

All fuels catch fire easily. Jet fuel consists of a gelled form of kerosene that evaporates at room temperature and ignites at between 435 and 450 degrees Fahrenheit. A lit cigarette burns between 752 and 1,292 degrees Fahrenheit. Both the liquid and gaseous forms of jet fuel burn.

Jet fuel is extremely flammable.
Jet fuel is extremely flammable. (Image: Ingram Publishing/Ingram Publishing/Getty Images)

Skin Irritation

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration cautions that jet fuel can irritate the skin. When you get it on your skin or in your eyes, you will feel a burning sensation. Also, the exposed surfaces will swell and break out in a rash. Because jet fuel is a semisolid, it sticks to surfaces easily.

Jet fuel can irritate the skin.
Jet fuel can irritate the skin. (Image: Ivan Cholakov/iStock/Getty Images)

Brain Damage

Petrochemical fumes can impair the function of and kill brain cells, leading to dizziness, confusion and discoordination. In high concentrations, jet fuel fumes can cause death.

Petrochemical fumes can impair the function of and kill brain cells.
Petrochemical fumes can impair the function of and kill brain cells. (Image: Rafa Irusta/iStock/Getty Images)

Lung and Gastrointestinal Damage

Breathing in jet fuel fumes can cause nausea, swelling of the lungs (pneumonitis), chest tightness and loss of consciousness.

Breathing in jet fuel fumes can cause nausea and swelling of the lungs.
Breathing in jet fuel fumes can cause nausea and swelling of the lungs. (Image: Stocktrek Images/Stocktrek Images/Getty Images)

Cancer

Jet fuel contains well-known carcinogens such as benzene and toluene. The most extensive study of people regularly exposed to jet fuel used by many country's air forces showed that individuals who often handled JP 8 developed more cancers than did people who only occasionally handled the fuel. However, the difference in cancer rates between the two groups was not significantly different.

Jet fuel contains well-known carcinogens.
Jet fuel contains well-known carcinogens. (Image: Serghei Starus/iStock/Getty Images)

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