Treat Gasoline with Care Warns LSU AgCenter Engineer

Richard L. Parish  |  8/21/2006 8:38:51 PM

News You Can Use For December 2003

Gasoline is one of the most hazardous substances most people have to deal with. We tend to take it for granted since it is so common and familiar, but we should pay it more respect, warns Dr. Dick Parish, an engineer at the LSU AgCenter’s Hammond Research Station.

Gasoline is poisonous, says Parish, who offers a few safety suggestions.

"If you accidentally swallow gasoline, call a doctor at once and do not induce vomiting," he says. "If you get gasoline in your eyes, flush them with water for at least 15 minutes, and call a doctor."

Gasoline on your skin may not initially appear to be a problem, but prolonged or repeated liquid contact can lead to irritation and even skin problems, Parish says.

The LSU AgCenter engineer warns that breathing gasoline fumes is dangerous.

"Exposure to vapor concentrations can cause respiratory irritation, headache, dizziness, nausea and loss of coordination," he says. "Higher concentrations may cause loss of consciousness, cardiac sensitization, coma and death resulting from respiratory failure."

Parish points out that along with personal injury, gasoline can be a fire hazard.

"We all know that gasoline is highly flammable and easily ignited," he says. "In fact, a single cup of gasoline has the explosive power of five sticks of dynamite."

Because gasoline is so easily ignited, you must use great care in handling it. Parish offers these basic principles for gasoline safety.

• Never smoke within 50 feet of gasoline.

• Never refuel a hot engine or an engine that is running. Shut down the engine and let it cool off for at least 10 minutes. The highest temperatures attained by small engines occur immediately after shutdown, so it’s not safe to refuel right away.

• Use only approved gasoline containers. "When transporting containers, be sure they are secured in the vehicle," Parish says. "Fill containers no more than 95 percent full to allow room for thermal expansion. And be sure your containers have secure lids."

• Never remove the cap from a gasoline tank while the engine is hot. Combustible vapor can flow out and come in contact with manifolds, exhaust pipes and other hot engine parts.

• Do not leave gasoline containers in direct sunlight or in the trunk of a car.

• Never store gasoline containers or equipment with gasoline tanks near a flame. "Many Southern homes have natural gas water heaters or furnaces located in storage rooms," Parish says. "Never store gasoline or gasoline-powered equipment in the same room."

• Do not use electronic equipment such as cell phones near gasoline – a spark from the electronics could ignite the gasoline. "A spark from static electricity can ignite gasoline," Parish warns. "Static electricity is more of a problem under low humidity conditions, but you should always be aware of the potential problem and take steps to avoid sparks from static electricity."

• Avoid sliding on or off the seat of a car, truck, mower or tractor while fueling – a static charge and spark can result.

• Place your hand on a metal part of the machine, away from the fuel tank, to discharge any static electricity before you open the fuel tank and fuel can.

• When filling gasoline containers at a service station, place the container on the ground. Don’t leave it in the bed of a truck or in a vehicle. Hold the nozzle in constant contact with the container while it’s filling.

Gasoline should always be stored in an approved container. Length of storage time before deterioration occurs varies with storage conditions, but a general rule is to try not to keep gasoline longer than one to two months. If you anticipate keeping it longer than that, you should add a fuel stabilizer – while the gasoline is fresh. Adding fuel stabilizer to deteriorated gasoline does no good.

Even with the addition of a stabilizer, you should not store gasoline more than six months. Excess gasoline in good condition can be added to the fuel tank of a car, truck or gasoline tractor; however, two-stroke gasoline that has been mixed with oil should not be disposed of in this manner. If the gasoline has deteriorated, your only safe and legal choice is to take the gasoline to a hazardous waste disposal site.

"Treat gasoline with respect," Parish says. "Use it safely."

For information on more yard and garden topics, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office. In addition, look for Gardening and Get It Growing links in the Feature section of the LSU AgCenter Web site:


On the Internet: LSU AgCenter:

On the Internet:

Source: Dick Parish at (985) 543-4125 or

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