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Why Natural Gas Is Dangerous

Natural gas isn't dangerous when it's sealed up tight inside pipes and used in the right way.

The natural gas pipes underground and inside your house are designed to keep the gas safely inside. There are also rules for digging, building houses and using appliances to make sure accidents don't happen.

Natural gas leaks

The danger happens when natural gas leaks out because it is flammable, which means that if there's a flame or even a spark in the area of a leak, it could cause a fire or explosion.

A gas leak can happen if a gas pipe is damaged, like if someone is digging a hole and accidentally breaks an underground gas line. Natural gas can also leak out if an appliance like a stove isn't hooked up right.

When natural gas first comes out of the ground, you can't see it or smell it. That's why gas companies add a chemical, called mercaptan, which smells like rotten eggs to the gas to make even the smallest leaks easy to notice.

Luckily, natural gas leaks are rare. Fires and explosions are even more uncommon because the rotten egg smell helps people get help quickly before anything bad happens.

Carbon monoxide

Carbon monoxide, CO, is a dangerous gas that you can't see or smell.

It happens when appliances that burn fuel aren't working right. It can also happen if a car is running inside a garage.

Carbon monoxide can make you very sick. When humans breathe in carbon monoxide, it gets into our blood and stops the oxygen from getting to our brain.

If you're sick with carbon monoxide poisoning, it might feel like the flu:

  • Headache
  • Upset stomach or throwing up
  • Feeling so tired you can't sit up
  • Fuzzy vision
  • Getting really dizzy when you stand up

You can often tell the difference between the flu and CO poisoning because you won't have a fever, everyone in your family may feel sick, or the symptoms might disappear when you leave the house.

You can help prevent CO poisoning by reminding the grown-ups in your house to use and test a carbon monoxide detector.

This device works like a smoke alarm. If it senses too much CO in the air, it will make a loud beeping noise to warn you about the danger.

Learn what to do if you hear a carbon monoxide alarm.

Test your safety smarts

Now that you've read about the dangers of natural gas, test your smarts by going through the natural gas safety house.


Fun stuff to print:

Energy Safety Survey [PDF]

Alliant Energy Kids activity book [PDF]