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Natural Gas Buildup | Methane – An Explosive Killer

 Natural gas and air filtration  In addition to the risk of explosion, the smell of natural gas can make many people ill. Hundreds of residents of Porter Ranch, near Los Angeles, were recently sickened by a natural gas leak from a nearby underground storage facility a mile away.Methane, when uncontrolled, can become a deadly killer. Methane is the key component in natural gas, and it is highly explosive. So while natural gas is an important fuel for both heating and cooling in more than half of all American homes, there are deadly dangers people should be aware of. The year: 2014. The place: two apartment buildings in New York. The event: a natural gas explosion injured seventy people and killed eight others.

In addition to the risk of explosion, the smell of natural gas can make many people ill. Hundreds of residents of Porter Ranch, near Los Angeles, were recently sickened by a natural gas leak from a nearby underground storage facility a mile away. The cause of their headaches, nausea and nosebleeds was mercaptan, the chemical added to natural gas that smells like rotten eggs.

Natural gas can also contain small amounts of potentially harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as ethane, propane, butane and even toxic compounds such as benzene and toluene.

Natural Gas – What is it?

Natural gas is composed primarily (95% or more) of methane, a colorless, odorless, non-toxic flammable gas. Methane is emitted from natural sources such as wetlands and also from industrial and agricultural processes.

Because methane is odorless, an additive known as mercaptan, or methanethiol, is added to natural gas to make the presence of methane detectable. Mercaptan additives contain sulfur, which is the reason natural gas smells like rotten eggs. Exposure to mercaptan can result in a variety of adverse health effects, including irritation of the eyes, skin and respiratory tract. Natural gas can also contain small amounts of potentially harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as ethane, propane, butane and even toxic compounds such as benzene and toluene.

Methane cannot be filtered. Mercaptan and VOCs can.

Unfortunately, methane is not just dangerous – it’s also unfilterable. Adsorption and chemisorption, the two processes by which gas and odor air filters remove chemicals from the air, are ineffective against methane, which has an extremely low molecular weight. As a result, the only effective strategies for reducing indoor methane levels are source control/reduction and increased ventilation.

Mercaptan and VOCs, however, can be efficiently filtered with a high-performance air filtration system with a combination of highquality activated carbon and potassium permanganate – such as the IQAir HealthPro Plus or GC MultiGas room air purifier. The activated carbon provides adsorption of VOCs, and the potassium permanganate provides excellent chemisorption of mercaptan and many other VOCs, such as formaldehyde. The combination of these two filtration media is ideal.

Importance of monitoring methane levels

Because methane is so highly explosive, high-performance air filtration to remove the odors associated with natural gas (mercaptan) is not recommended unless sufficient monitoring with a methane detector has determined that levels are safe. Methane detectors, also known as explosive gas detectors, can be purchased at hardware and home-supply stores.

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