Limited exposure harmless

The New Straits Times, July ,1995

Q: When I go to a petrol station to fill up my car tank, I like to smell the petrol vapour. Will this habit affect may health?

A: Petrol is a complex mixture of hydrocarbon additives such as antiknock agents, antioxidants, rust inhibitors and dyes.

The toxicity of petrol is related to the composition of the mixture, which in turn, depends upon the origin of the petroleum from which the petrol is derived and the molecular modifications incurred during refining.

The saturated hydrocarbons from C4-C8 have strong narcotic properties and cause nausea, ataxia and loss of consciousness. The unsaturated hydrocarbons in the mixture (e.g., butylenes and isoprenes) are mild anaesthetic agents.

Unintentional and limited exposure to the petrol vapour at the petrol station is harmless. However, if significant amounts of the volatile substances are deliberately inhaled, it will affect the body systems.

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