Natural gas is a useful tool. Its use in fireplaces, heaters, dryers and stoves makes it versatile. Natural gas companies have tapped into this market, citing the resource as a healthy, clean form of energy. However, evidence is surfacing that natural gas in the home is not only harmful to your health, but it can also damage your surroundings. With this in mind, it is important to understand the hazards of natural gas and how to minimize or eliminate these dangers.
Natural gas is toxic for a variety of reasons. First, it is an asphyxiant, meaning it reduces oxygen in the air, potentially causing suffocation. It also contains a mixture of compounds, contaminants and impurities. These include chemicals like radon, nitrogen oxide and carbon dioxide. Mercaptan is a chemical added to natural gas that emits a rotten egg smell to alert people of a leak, but it too is toxic.
According to the New Jersey Department of Health, mercaptan has been known to irritate the nose, throat and lungs. In turn, this causes immediate effects like coughing and wheezing. Long-term exposure can cause chronic bronchitis. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine has discovered that homes using natural gas can worsen the occupants' allergies. Natural gas stoves have been found to increase the risk of asthma or worsen the symptoms for those who have the disease. Nitrogen dioxide emitted by gas stoves also appears to have immediate effects by limiting airflow, resulting in breathing problems.
While natural gas is harmful to residents, your house's general environment can suffer, leading to more health risks. When natural gas burns openly, such as on a stove or fireplace, it produces a great deal of water vapor. The humidity is a catalyst for dust mites, viruses and bacteria. Additionally, the toxic chemicals emitted by natural gas do not just dissipate into the air for people to inhale. For example, the fumes adhere to food when cooking on a stove, or onto clothes if you use a gas dryer.
The best way to avoid the harmful effects of natural gas is by switching to electric heating. This will eliminate the toxins, particles and vapor that puts people at risk. However, if you do wish to use natural gas, avoid cooking with it. Since a gas stove emits a lot of fumes in a short time, eliminating that appliance can keep the air in your home cleaner. It will also solve the problem of toxins sticking to your food.