Can Gasoline blind you? A mere splash of gasoline cannot cause blindness. However, long-term exposure to gasoline to one’s eyes can be hazardous.
We will explain it presently but first, let’s have a look at what is gasoline? It is also imperative to consider its physical and chemical properties before jumping on to its medical effects on the eyes.
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What Is Gasoline – Can Gasoline Blind You?
Different parts of the world have different names for gasoline. Some people call it gas while others refer to it as petrol. It is also called motor spirit, casing head gasoline, motor fuel, and natural gasoline.
Based on the purity level and composition, it may vary in color in different parts of the world. Some places may have colorless gasoline, while people may find green or pink gasoline in some other states.
The odor, however, is quite particular and remains constant, more or less. Gasoline is a fossil fuel burnt in combustion engines to produce the necessary energy to drive these vehicles and automobiles. This means that it has a high content of hydrocarbons, which can or cannot lead to certain medical complications.
People who are exposed to vis-a-vis affected by gasoline can be categorized into two groups:
- Primary contaminators
- Secondary contaminators
Primary contaminators may include people who are exposed to gasoline vapors. Such people are not a threat as they cannot carry contagious diseases.
But the question that arises then is, what if someone had gasoline exposed to their skin or clothes in liquid form? Such people are the ones who come under the second category, i.e., secondary contaminators. The exposition of a gasoline-affected body part or cloth(es) can be a source of contamination for others which can either happen through:
- a direct contact; or
- off-gassing vapors
The high amounts of hydrocarbons in gasoline make it a volatile liquid. This implies that it can vaporize without any external stimuli. Along with its quality of being highly volatile, it is equally inflammable. And a clear sign of gasoline being extremely inflammable is its distinctive odor.
The molecular composition is such that it instantly vaporizes, and these vapors can catch fire from quite a distance.
The property which makes it even more dangerous is the bounce-back effect. It means that the vapors catch fire, but they also carry the fire to the source, i.e., liquid gasoline. The mass of these vapors is also greater than air, so low-lying areas are where they tend to collect.
As far as the medical concerns of these gasoline vapors are concerned, they affect different organs differently. For example, the lungs are the very first ones to absorb gasoline vapors. The second one to get affected may be the gastrointestinal tract. And the last one to react with gaseous gasoline is the skin.
However, prolonged exposure to gasoline to the skin may also be harmful as it may cause skin burns. And this process may get sped up if the exposure is liquid gasoline.
Those who are constantly exposed to liquid gasoline, like those who work at the gas stations or petrol pumps, may develop severe skin conditions. Their skin might get dry, rough, and degreased.
As we understand, skin is a membrane, and gasoline does have a reaction tendency towards such surfaces. And if the exposure is not decreased, then a dry and degreased surface might lead to further complications and cause ‘dermatitis.’
But skin is still a relatively dry membrane. On the other hand, our body has parts that have mucous membranes. These might include the eyes, the inner side of the nostrils, etc.
Vaporized gasoline can be particularly irritable to such membranes. It may cause itchiness, dryness, and runny nose or runny eyes. Sensitive groups may also experience inflammation, but that’s rare. One important thing to remember is that this irritability threshold starts at 200 ppm. Before 200 ppm, one might not even notice anything.
But that’s only vapors. What would happen if liquid gasoline is splashed in the eyes? If it is just a one-time thing with a few droplets only, it will first cause a burning sensation in the eye. Secondly, it may cause a transient injury to the cornea.
But if such exposure is repetitive, it will damage the cornea and affect the retina and ciliary body. If immediate action is not taken by rinsing the affected eye with a lot of water, then it may lead to:
- temporary loss of vision
These are but temporary and short-term conditions. Infection can take some time to heal as it has to wait for the epithelium of the ocular surface to grow back to normal size and thickness. But delaying medical help in such cases can be hazardous.
Experts believe that a lack of proper treatment in case of prolonged exposure to gasoline can lead to permanent blindness in some cases. The question is, why does this happen? The directly affected part of the eye is the cornea, as explained earlier.
Emergency treatment can prevent any further damage. But in an otherwise case, the hydrocarbons on the surface of the affected cornea will get absorbed into the retina and other sensitive parts. This also increases the risk of these hydrocarbons getting assimilated into the bloodstream.
It will also affect the optic nerves, ultimately affecting the vision and leading to visual impairment. Now, the duration of this visual impairment depends upon how effectively one seeks medical assistance.
So, one cannot rule out the possibility of blindness. Having said that, minute gasoline exposition to the eye can be cured by rinsing the eye with clean water.
Doctors recommend washing the eye for at least 15 to 20 minutes. However, any rubbing or use of clothes or tissue papers is strictly prohibited to avoid further contamination.
Also, using soap to wash and clean the eye is not recommended as it is alkaline which can lead to further complications.
Thus, in a nutshell, be careful while you’re near gasoline. If a drop or two gets in your eye, rinse it with plenty of clean water and go to an ophthalmologist immediately.
Another post that will interest you is about Can Flashbangs Blind You?
If you delay medical attention, you lose your vision. As simple as that. And this was all you wanted to know about gasoline defiling your vision.
Hi. This is me Hira Naz. I am becoming a clinical psychologist. I am done with my majors and doing some diplomas to pursue my career in counseling. Along with Psychology, I am pursuing my passion for writing. I try to provide all the necessary insights to help and advise the elderly and disabled.