Natural gas is a fuel which is completely safe when it is transported within sealed pipes and used as intended. However, dangerous situations may occur when natural gas leaks from pipes or is not properly burned within appliances.
Natural gas is flammable - a single flame or even a spark in the area of a leak, could cause an explosion. Fortunately, natural gas leaks are very rare. Explosions are even more uncommon - the mixture of natural gas and oxygen in the air must be at a precise proportion for a spark to set it off.
An additional danger of natural gas is the production of carbon monoxide. This invisible, odorless gas is produced when natural gas appliances aren't vented correctly or improper combustion occurs. One quick way to tell if a natural gas appliance is getting enough oxygen and is adjusted properly is to check the color of the flame on the pilot light.
A pilot or burner flame light should be about 90 percent blue.
Facts about Natural Gas
- Natural gas is colorless and odorless in its natural state.
- A chemical called "Mercaptan" is added to give the gas an odor so you can smell a leak immediately.
- If a slight odor of rotten eggs is observed, check range burners and the pilot lights on your gas appliances. This may be an indicator that the gas pilot light has gone out. The pilot light can be re-lit by turning off the appliance and following the manufactures steps. If the pilot light won't relight, call your local gas company.
- A strong odor means you should leave the home immediately, and then call 9-1-1 and your local gas company from a neighbor's home. Don't turn electrical switches on or off, or use a flashlight or telephone.
- Keep the kitchen range clean. Also rinse and dry burners before reinstalling.
- Never use a gas stove for heating. If you do, this can damage your stove and produce dangerous carbon monoxide gas.
- Keep small children away from the gas stove and all gas-burning appliances.
- Avoid wearing loose clothing when cooking. This type of clothing can accidentally be ignited by flames when you cook in them.
For more information about natural gas safety, review San Diego Gas & Electric's Natural Gas Safety Informational Flyer.