Propane is a clean-burning fossil fuel used mostly in heating and cooking. In its natural form, Propane is a non-toxic, colorless, and odorless gas.
Since it is virtually colorless and odorless, it can be quite dangerous if a leaking would occur. It is quite difficult to know or even detect that there is a leak. Undetected gas leaks are dangerous as they are quite flammable.
In order to prevent such situations, propane gas manufacturers added a certain additive to create a smell in the gas. This additive is called Methanethiol, and is more commonly known as Mercaptan.
Mercaptan is a natural chemical found in some food like hazelnuts and cheeses. Mercaptans are also produced by humans and other animals during digestion. It is also present in decaying animals and plant matter.
What gives Mercaptan its distinct odor?
To some, mercaptan has that distinct smell of a rotten egg, or a rotting cabbage, or something rotten � that depends on the person asked. The odor comes from the sulfur content in mercaptan. In high concentration, mercaptan has the most disagreeable smell.
Since propane is completely odorless, the addition of mercaptan in it makes leaking detectable. Detection of leaks through odor is not always the best method.
The human sense of smell is not always guaranteeable. Aside from aging, other factors such as colds, allergies, sinusitis, and the use of tobacco, alcohol and drugs, can weaken the sense of smell. Strong cleaning agents and other air-fresheners may mask mercaptan's odor. It is also advisable to have gas detectors installed in your home for safety measure.
In addition to these detectors, the people around the products should always be aware of the tell-tell signs of a gas leak. These signs are usually an unexplained hissing combined with a disagreeable smell.
What to do when you smell gas?
Do not panic. Stay focused and move your family and your pets out of the area. After safely escorting them out of the house, call your local fire department using your neighbor�s phone or your cellular phone, provided that you are far from the detected leak. All supply valves on a gas tank or cylinder should be closed. And lastly, do not go back inside the house until the authorities says that it is safe to do so.
Do not attempt to operate any electric switches or even light a match. Also, never attempt to use a cellular phone inside the gas contaminated area.