What is methane? Methane is a colorless, odorless gas and is lighter than air.
It is a product of the anaerobic bacterial decomposition of vegetable matter.
This produces gas as a waste product and is the natural gas as we know it today. Is it dangerous? Yes. Why? Because methane, a gas of carbon and hydrogen, mixed with air in a confined space can cause an explosion. Methane is extremely flammable and atmospheric methane levels have more than doubled in the last 200 years due to human activities. It is a major contributing factor to Global Warming, only second to carbon dioxide and twenty times more potent.
Methane is also dangerous because it is an asphyxiant, and if there is a higher concentration of methane in the air, it decreases the amount of oxygen for people to breathe. Symptoms of oxygen deficiency resulting from simple asphyxiants may include: rapid breathing, diminished mental alertness, impaired muscular coordination, faulty judgment, depression of all sensations, emotional instability, and fatigue. As asphyxiation progresses, nausea, vomiting, prostration, and loss of consciousness may result, eventually leading to convulsions, coma, and death. Oxygen deficiency during pregnancy has produced developmental abnormalities in humans and experimental animals. Direct contact with methane can cause frostbite and freeze burns in exposed tissues.
Methane is found in landfills, the single largest manmade source. Methane is also found where there are supplies of natural oil, gas, and coal. Since it is a major component of natural gas, it can be leaked into the atmosphere from natural gas and coal exploration and drilling. Drilling for natural gas can also cause methane to seep out of the ground into water sources and homes. Methane emission also comes from animal digestion, especially buffalo, cows, sheep, and goats, decomposition of manure, decaying organic matter in rice fields, sewage sludge, wet lands such as swamps and marshy areas, and burning of agricultural crop residue. Some industrial processes such as the production of petrochemicals and silicon carbide, and treatment of wastewater also release methane into the air.
Because methane is the major constituent of natural gas, it is used for cooking and heating, with some homes getting their energy from power plants that use natural gas to create electricity.
Because methane is odorless, colorless, it is difficult to detect build-up. Thus, it is important to be aware of the dangers of Methane Gas and to be entirely safe even employ the use of a quality methane gas detector.
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