Mercaptans and the Dangers They May Pose to Porter Ranch Residents


On October 23rd, 2015, Southern California Gas Co. discovered a massive gas well blowout in its Aliso Canyon facility. The rupture is releasing tons of gas into the atmosphere and is affecting the town of Porter Ranch – located a mile away from the facility.

SoCalGas has claimed that the gas is non-toxic as it mostly contains methane, which has no harmful long-term effects on human beings. While there is not a lot of research to fully explain the effect of mercaptans on the human body, experts conclude that mercaptans in the gas may be causing serious health afflictions. Mercaptans are added to the gas in order to give it a strong, pungent scent. Since methanol is odorless, mercaptans are added so leaks can be detected.

Mercaptans are flammable, aromatic gases that smell like rotten eggs. They are found in a variety of vegetables (e.g. onions) and cheese and in many products such as jet fuel, pesticides, and fungicides. Mercaptans can enter the body through respiration. Continued inhalation of mercaptans may cause a range of health problems in human beings, such as:

  1. Nausea – Studies confirm that people exposed to about 4ppmm (parts per million by mass) of mercaptans can experience nausea.
  2. Headaches – Headaches can be short-term side effects caused by inhalation of mercaptans.
  3. Nosebleeds – People are reported to get nosebleeds because of the gas. This may be due to dermal contact with the gas. Dermal exposure can cause redness, irritation, and swelling.
  4. Dizziness – Many have experienced dizziness due to the lack of oxygen in the air.
  5. Respiratory Ailments – Over-exposure can cause many respiratory conditions, including shortness of breath and tightness or burning in the chest.
  6. Neurological Ailments – Continued exposure to the gas has been linked to memory loss.

If you are feeling unwell and are experiencing any of the aforementioned health conditions, you may be entitled to compensation. Make sure to visit a medical professional as soon as possible in order to verify whether your symptoms have been caused by the gas well blowout.