Hydrocarbons are the main chemical compounds found in gasoline. Exposure to hydrocarbons can cause serious damage to a person’s health.  People may contact hydrocarbon gasses after working around gasoline liquid or fumes. 

Individuals working in the oil field industry have a high likelihood of hydrocarbon exposure due to daily work and unfortunate accidents. Understanding the symptoms and treatment for hydrocarbon inhalation or contact can help people identify suspected exposure or poisoning. 

What are the health effects of hydrocarbon exposure?

Hydrocarbon exposure damages organs and reduces central nervous system functions because the chemicals slow down the body’s ability to move oxygen around to healthy body tissues.. People who inhaled gasoline vapors may notice headaches, slurred speech, staggering, weakness, blurred vision, heart arrhythmia and convulsions, among other symptoms. 

For those who ingested gasoline, the hydrocarbons may cause fatal effects. Symptoms of hydrocarbon ingestion include heartburn, confusion, loss of consciousness, internal organ hemorrhaging, vertigo and lung damage. 

If gasoline makes contact with skin or clothing and remains there for several hours, it will absorb into the skin and cause inflammation, pus-like discharge, cracking or peeling skin and first and second-degree burns. 

To reduce the risk of the symptoms becoming more serious, people should move to a well-ventilated area, call Poison Control, and rinse their bare bodies with running water and soap for 15 minutes. 

Who is most at risk of exposure?

People who work with machinery are likely to come in contact with gasoline and its vapors. This includes gasoline pipeline workers, gas refinery workers, miners, railroad workers and those who clean up gas leaks and spills. 

These individuals are the most vulnerable to hydrocarbon exposure because of the daily exposure to gasoline vapors, gasoline liquid and other fuels. Additionally, over time, gas tanks and pipelines leak small amounts into groundwater. 

How is hydrocarbon poisoning treated?

Treatment for hydrocarbon poisoning is nonexistent. Instead, doctors will provide supportive therapy and medication to ensure the patient’s major organs like the heart and lungs are functioning as best as they can. 

Preventing exposure to hydrocarbons is not always possible but getting help from the right medical personnel and other professionals can help minimize the damage.