Poison Control Centers Issue Warning Over Gas Siphoning Risks

Following recent gas shortages throughout the East Coast of the U.S., poison control centers have seen a notable spike in gasoline-related medical calls, after failed attempts at gas siphoning.

The American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) issued a warning on May 18, urging consumers not to try siphoning, after reports of gasoline ingestion poisoning spiked 45% from May 10 to May 12.

Gas siphoning, which often involves attempting to remove gasoline from another vehicle, frequently is done by placing ones mouth on the end of a hose in gas tank and sucking until the gas begins to flow through the tube or hose. Once it is started, this often results in the person providing the suction getting a mouthful of gasoline if they do not react fast enough.

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The Colonial Pipeline was temporarily shutdown in early May, after a ransomware attack by anonymous hackers, creating a brief gas shortage throughout the Midwest and East Coast. The crisis caused a massive rise in gas prices, and some stations briefly ran out of gas, causing fears among consumers of a potential long-term shortage. This resulted in a surge of gas siphoning and overall higher amounts of exposure to gasoline, poison center officials say.

Poison control calls involving gasoline ingestion have increased by 45% due to siphoning, according to the National Poison Data System (NDPS), and those exposed have ranged between between ages 13 and 59. The majority of those exposed (78%) recovered without the need for hospitalization. Reports of gas inhalation increased by 25% as well during the same time period, according to the warning.

Ingesting gasoline can cause severe injuries and even death.  In adults, fewer than two ounces can cause severe intoxication. More than 12 ounces can be fatal. The symptoms of gas ingestion can include vomiting, heartburn, drowsiness, vertigo, slurred speech, flushing of the face, staggering weakness, blurred vision, confusion, convulsions, loss of consciousness, lung and internal organ hemorrhaging, and heart failure.

While gas inhalation is typically linked to only minimal health risks, it can still cause a variety of adverse health effects, including coughing, shortness of breath, chemical pneumonia, chemical burns, and unconsciousness.

Fortunately, it usually takes a large amount of gasoline ingestion to cause serious injuries, yet these injuries are still severe and can even be fatal if not treated immediately.

Gasoline can be hazardous when not stored in the proper containers which increases the risk and chance of gas inhalation. The AAPCC, along with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, warn consumers to only place gasoline in containers made specifically for that purpose, and strongly urge consumers not to fill plastic bags with gasoline.

The AAPCC recommends any consumers who have questions or suspect they may have been poisoned should contact their local poison control center by calling 1-800-222-2222. Consumers can also text POISON to 797979 to save the Poison Help Hotline as a contact in their mobile phone.

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