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Propane sources, health risks

Wednesday, October 11, 2017 by

Propane is a colorless gas that is the product of natural gas processing and petroleum refining. The three-carbon alkane is highly combustible and is normally used as fuel for engines, stoves, and residential central heating. It is never used for medicinal purposes. However, adults may inadvertently inhale harmful amounts which can cause great harm. Children may also accidentally swallow propane by licking equipment that use it.

Those who are exposed to excessive amounts of propane should immediately contact their nearest poison center.

Harmful effects that can be caused by propane

Propane poisoning exhibits similar symptoms to general poisoning. This includes a burning sensation in the lungs, convulsions, diarrhea, shallow breathing, weakness, loss of consciousness, and diarrhea among other things. Touching liquid propane can result in frostbite-like symptoms.

Body systems harmed by propane

In addition to the aforementioned hazards, propane can cause adverse reactions to the following body systems:

  • Cardiovascular — Inhaling propane forces your heart to beat faster. Patients suffering from propane poisoning are at an increased risk of a hemorrhagic stroke. Typically, the first warning signs of propane poisoning is a hypertensive crisis. This describes a series of conditions that include headache, blurred vision, confusion, or seizures. Interestingly, women appear to be more vulnerable to experiencing a hemorrhagic stroke compared to men.
  • Nervous — A hypertensive crisis can induce uneven cerebrovascular spasms otherwise known as vascular beading. This condition can occur even in the absence of a hemorrhage and is characterized by dizziness and nervousness.
  • Psychiatric — Although rare, propane poisoning can trigger a psychiatric abnormality. The range of behavioral disorders vary, with reports suggesting a potential for mania, paranoia, depression, agitation, and even hallucinations. These reactions seem to be more frequent among women.
  • Gastrointestinal — The stomach was not designed to process synthetic chemicals — particularly a gas meant for fuel. Children who do ingest propane can experience severe gastrointestinal distress along with a minor hypertensive episode.
  • Renal — Propane poisoning can cause acute interstitial nephritis.

Where to learn more


Propane is a colorless gas that is used as fuel. It is never used for therapy. Propane poisoning can occur either through inhalation or ingestion. It can cause a whole bevy of negative effects.

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