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The Gas Odor Smell? Ask Annie

The Gas Odor Smell?  Ask Annie

Dear Annie, I heard that because gas is odorless a scented toxic chemical is put into it to alert people to the danger of a gas leak. Is this true and what is the chemical? –David, TX

Hi David. Yes, this is true, and I know about it because I happen to be one of the population that is very sensitive to it since it is a recognized neurotoxin and I tend to be sensitive to that class of pollutant. The scented chemical used mostly is methl mercaptan, a chemical in the sulfur family, but some more rural areas use what is a more neurotoxic version. Besides being a neurotoxin mercaptan is a recognized respiratory toxicant. Needless to say, when you smell “gas” it is important to report it right away, both so you don’t get exposed to gas and mercaptan.

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Annie B. Bond

Annie is a renowned expert in non-toxic and green living. She was named one of the top 20 environmental leaders by Body and Soul Magazine and "the foremost expert on green living." - Body & Soul Magazine, 2009. Learn Annie's latest eco-friendly news on, a website dedicated to healthy and green living.


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5:50AM PDT on Jul 22, 2012


9:34PM PDT on Jul 21, 2012

If it smelled good people would think it was air freshener.

9:29PM PDT on Jul 21, 2012

It is instantly recogniseable, stinks like billy oh but has saved countless lives.

4:03AM PST on Mar 3, 2012

I can't tell you the number of times over the past 20 years I've smelled gas coming from outdoor meters. One time I smelled it coming from under the ground near an outdoor meter. In all cases the gas company acknowledged that there was a leak and they fixed it. Without the added smell who knows what would have happened.

5:43PM PST on Mar 2, 2012

I do not understand Why they couldn't add something that is NOT a neurotoxin, I mean, how hard could it be??

4:03PM PDT on Nov 3, 2011


4:03PM PDT on Nov 3, 2011


4:21PM PST on Feb 5, 2010

I had heard that too

3:17PM PST on Jan 13, 2010

I believe adding this "odour" to gas to be essential as it alerts you to discovering a gas leak instead of suffocating from the gas itself.

10:30AM PDT on Oct 1, 2008

I have a friend upstairs from me who has been very sick from the "scent" of a propane barbeque (they say there is no lead or smell). She has multiple chemical sensitivity herself, and I wonder if this chemical is the same for something like that?

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