Exploring the Dangers of Gas Leaks
Natural gas and propane leaks can occur without warning and cause fires and explosions in both residential and commercial properties. According to the US Department of Energy, 60% of American homes utilize either natural gas or propane. These fuel sources are responsible for approximately 3,200 residential and business fires each year in the United States.
Gas stovetops, water heaters, fireplaces, outdoor grills, and outdoor firepits are the most common sources of fires or explosions. Cracked hoses, faulty couplings, or punctures to the line or fuel tank are the most common causes of leaks that allow fires to occur. In enclosed spaces, gases can build up to explosive concentrations that can exacerbate the danger. In outdoor spaces such as the decks, patios, and outdoor living areas common around Elko, these fires can easily ignite brush, trees, and other landscaping, quickly spreading to surrounding structures and endangering lives. Even when they don’t spark a fire, exposure to these gases is toxic and can cause damage to the respiratory and nervous systems. Significant exposure can produce immediate symptoms, however, the impact of lower level exposures may not become apparent until days, weeks, or even years afterward.
Odorants Offer Limited Protection
Natural gas and propane are odorless gasses, This is why Federal regulations require producers to add odorant prior to distribution. The “rotten egg” smell is intended to provide a pungent warning that gas is present. However, the odorant is not permanent. Prolonged exposure to the atmosphere outside of gas lines or containers can diminish the odorant through natural processes including adsorption, absorption, and oxidation. When this occurs, the odorant may not be detectable and may lead home or business owners to believe an area is safe or that fuel lines, etc. have stopped leaking.
Because many cleanup procedures utilize chemicals that are designed to mask the smell of the odorant, leaks can remain dangerous even after repair crews have come and gone. These chemicals can remain active within an enclosed space for days and even weeks after a leak has been cleaned up. This creates a highly dangerous situation should a secondary leak occur following a faulty repair job. A personal injury attorney can ensure that manufacturers of defective components, gas companies, maintenance personnel, and others are held liable for actions that contribute to gas leaks that cause damages or injuries.