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Hazardous Material Exposure

While it’s rare to come in contact with hazardous material that is being transported through pipelines, it’s not impossible to be exposed to something that is dangerous and potentially harmful. That is why it’s critical to know what kind of materials are in fact toxic and what safety measures to take in order to mitigate risk.


Potentially harmful or toxic materials include:

  • Petroleum

  • Highly volatile liquids

  • Anhydrous ammonia

  • Carbon dioxide

Helpful hints in determining if you are being exposed to potentially harmful substances:

SOUND: Volume can range from a quiet hissing to a loud roar, depending on the size of the leak and pipeline system. 

SMELL: An unusual smell, petroleum odor, or gaseous odor will sometimes accompany pipeline leaks. Natural gas and HVLs are colorless, tasteless, and odorless, unless commercial odorants or Mercaptan is added. Gas transmission/gas gathering pipelines are odorless, but may have a hydrocarbon smell.

SIGHT: Liquid pools, continuous bubbling in wet or flooded areas, an oily sheet on water surfaces, vaporous fogs and/or blowing dirt around a pipeline area.  Dead or discolored plants in an otherwise healthy area of vegetation or frozen ground in warm weather are all signs of a pipeline leak. Natural gas is colorless, tasteless, and odorless, but vapor and "ground frosting" may be visible at high pressures. A natural gas leak may also be indicated by dust blowing from a hole in the ground or flames, if the leak is ignited.

What to do if you suspect a leak or compromise in the pipes you are near:

  • Immediately leave the area.

  • If possible, turn off any equipment being used at or near the suspected leak. Abandon any equipment being used and move upwind from the suspected leak.

  • From a safe location, call 911 or your local emergency response number, along with the pipeline company. Call collect, if needed, and give your name, phone number, description of the suspected leak, and its location.

  • Warn others to stay away, when possible.

*Content for this post is based on the information provided by Pipeline Safety Information at

jason dunnSPOT, Safety, pipe, pipeline