This Is What Happens To Your Body When You Inhale Gasoline Fumes

While filling up the tank at your local gas station, you're bound to catch a whiff of the unmistakable scent of gasoline. Along with its distinct smell, gasoline is usually pale in color, in either a light shade of pink or brown (via Illinois Department of Public Health). Derived from crude oil, gasoline is highly flammable, combustible, and is made up of over 100 chemicals to keep automobiles operating at peak performance. However, Medical News Today cautions that gasoline is toxic to humans.

Gasoline once contained lead, but with the enforcement of the Clean Air Act, the use of lead in gasoline was banned in 1996 with the exception of use in larger machinery such as aircrafts or farm equipment (via U.S. Energy Information Administration). This was due to lead's harmful impact on the environment as well as on humans, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. Automotive news source Motor Biscuit explains what the banning of lead gasoline meant for consumers, writing, "It's no longer hazardous to stand within the exhaust range of American cars, but that doesn't mean that modern gasoline is 100% safe."

Although we no longer have to worry about lead, there are other chemicals present in gasoline that can pose significant risk to our health when inhaled.

When does gasoline exposure become dangerous?

Breathing in gasoline vapors can interfere with the body's ability to transport oxygen to healthy tissue, causing the tissue to die off (via Medical News Today). Symptoms of gasoline fume inhalation can range from dizziness, headache, or drowsiness, to blurred vision, weakness, facial flushing, or slurred speech, and in the most severe cases, can induce convulsions, coma, or heart failure.

Motor Biscuit reassures motorists that the gasoline fumes we come in contact with at the gas station or during a traffic standstill are minimal and generally not cause for concern. However, those who work jobs involving prolonged gasoline exposure — such as gas station attendants, farmers, toll booth workers, or gasoline pipeline workers — may be at an increased risk for health effects (via Medical News Today). The Illinois Department of Public Health cites that memory loss and reduced muscle function have been experienced by employees exposed to gasoline on a daily basis.

For this reason, it's important to exercise caution when in close proximity to gasoline fumes, however minimal they may be. Ventilation is key, so be sure to remain a safe distance away from pipes and exhaust vents and frequently step outside for fresh air if working indoors around heavy machinery (via Motor Biscuit). Additionally, if you are experiencing severely flushed or irritated skin, or any other critical symptoms, experts at Medical News Today advise calling Poison Control at 800-222-1222, as well as 9-1-1, in order to seek prompt medical attention.