Kerosene & Its Uses

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Kerosene is a flammable fuel and should be stored properly.
Kerosene is a flammable fuel and should be stored properly. (Image: PhotoObjects.net/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images)

Kerosene, also known as paraffin oil, is a combustible hydrocarbon liquid. It is very flammable and is most commonly used as a heating fuel in both domestic and industrial sectors. Its reputation as a household item was damaged in 1880 when a report found that nearly two out of every five New York City fires were caused by defective kerosene lamps. But it has since restored its reputation as a safe temporary heat solution and is used for a multitude of purposes.

Heating

In the mid 800s AD, a Persian scholar named Razi was the first person to write about distilling petroleum/crude oil to create a flammable liquid. Kerosene has been used as a heating source ever since. Its sale is not taxed in the United States, and it's a cheaper alternative than electric and gas heating. However, it can be dangerous when used in areas that are not properly ventilated. For safety purposes, a kerosene heater must be lit and extinguished outside.

Fuel

Red kerosene is used as a motor fuel for agricultural equipment, such as tractors and generators. When distributed for agricultural purposes, it is dyed red so it can be easily distinguished for tax purposes. The byproducts contained in the dyes mean that burning red kerosene can be harmful to your health and the environment. Regular kerosene is used as fuel for fishing ships and small, light air crafts. It is also used as commercial jet fuel, under the name Jet-A. If not used responsibly, kerosene can pose a fire hazard.

Lighting

Electricity has widely replaced kerosene for lighting purposes, but it is still one of the most popular choices for lamp and lantern oil. Burning kerosene oil produces an unpleasant odor during combustion. Kerosene is not poisonous and is safe to use indoors, providing a window is open at least ¼ inch to allow enough oxygen to enter the room. Kerosene lanterns are mostly used for camping purposes because they are portable and easy to transport.

Insecticide

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, kerosene was used as an insecticide to kill mosquito larvae. A small amount of kerosene was added to standing water to deter and kill mosquitoes. This method is being used once again in some communities, where mosquitoes have developed a resistance to standard pesticides.

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