You’re right to assume that gas fumes from vehicle fuel can be harmful while filling your tank at the service station, but insufficient scientific data supports the assumption.
In short, although not a good idea, pumping gas into your car while pregnant is not immediately harmful to you or your baby; this all depends on the amount of time you spend in the proximity of the fumes.
Think about this from a logical position. How long does it take to fill your tank with gas, and how often do you stop at the service station for gas? Not long, right?
Pumping gas is done outdoors and not in a confined space that allows fumes to concentrate around you; however, the smell of gas fumes is more like a barking dog with no bite.
You’re outdoors and a full arm’s length away from your car’s gas inlet, and the air around you is constantly moving, reducing the fumes’ concentration.
Another factor is the ambient temperature; the hotter it is, the more fumes there will be and vice versa.
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When are gas fumes dangerous?
Breathing in gas fumes can pose a danger to your health, and there is no denying this fact, but when does it become dangerous?
There is always a danger in breathing in contaminated air, and the longer you are exposed, the greater the danger to your health. So without getting too scientific and drawing lines in the sand, we have to look at the warning signs posted at service stations.
There are no smoking signs posted all over service stations, as well as no naked flame signs and instructions to switch your vehicle off while refueling.
These signs are all to do with the flammable nature of gas, and they are put up to warn us of the danger. But, unfortunately, there are no signs to warn pregnant women to keep away from the gas pumps, are there?
The reason why there are no signs warning pregnant women of the dangers of inhaling gas fumes is largely because the danger is minimal. This is, of course, related to normal behaviour while refuelling your car.
Gas fumes are dangerous because while breathing the fumes in, you are depriving your body of much need oxygen, and besides, the fumes are toxic in a higher dosage.
If you’re exposed to concentrated gas fumes, you will soon feel the effects of being light-headed and suddenly developing a headache. You may even begin to cough and have a burning sensation in your lungs.
Rush hour in big cities creates an unseen danger for people and animals alike. Carbon monoxide is a by-product of burnt gas or fuel and is immitted into the air from every vehicle exhaust on the road. Getting caught up in slow-moving traffic or on a congested city road puts you at the scene of the crime.
Our saving grace is that these toxic fumes are not at a lethal concentration level, and the natural air flow prevents this. Yet, people who live in big cities have to contend with poorer air quality due to increased traffic congestion and other forms of air pollution from industrial and other sites.
There are dangers all around us and how we minimize these dangers depends on our lifestyle choices.
There are many myths about dangers to avoid while pregnant, and we all have a tough time separating myth from truth.
During my pregnancy, I had my fair share of unqualified advice, which is all part of normal human nature. People are genuinely concerned about the well-being of others, but they also want a bit of praise for their knowledge or their perceived knowledge of knowing better.
What tops my list of pregnancy dangers is believing everything you read or are told by a friend, family member, or even by scientists in the know.
Take the mixed messages we were bombarded with within the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic as an example. Unfortunately, not even the scientists could get it right.
Refueling your car with gas being branded as dangerous is a myth. You will probably fill your tank two or three times a month, and at those times, you will not breathe in enough fumes to cause any danger, but if you can arrange a friend or family member or even a service station attendant to pump gas for you, all the better. Prevention is always a better route to take.
The fumes from acetone while getting your nails done is pretty much on the same level as filling your tank with gas.
Too much and too often is definitely not advised. Much the same goes for braving peak hour traffic during your pregnancy. All these dangers are minute on the danger scale but should never-the-less be limited or avoided if possible.
In addition, the air you breathe is also transferred to your baby so being mindful of what affects the normal development of our unborn babies is paramount.
Mercury should be avoided, and some fish species are known to contain high levels of mercury. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that 630,000 babies are born annually with high levels of mercury which can cause neurological damage. Breastfeeding also passes mercury to your baby so watch what you eat until you stop breastfeeding.
The EPA and FDA have a diet watchlist for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.
Alcohol, drugs, or any substance abuse is dangerous, period. Another danger that very few people consider is occupational chemical exposure. Working with toxic chemicals daily can increase the risk to your baby as small amounts are constantly being absorbed by your body, whether through skin contact or inhalation.
There are less obvious risks like the water you drink, which could be contaminated depending on the source or water treatment method.
From the above, you might see that pumping gas while you are pregnant is just a drop in the ocean as far as risks or dangers we face daily.
Is pumping gas really safe for a pregnant woman?
The short answer is that no definite scientific study proves that it is either safe or unsafe. To run clinical trials of this nature will put the unborn babies in the test group at unnecessary risk.
The best thing you can do is treat it as a potential risk and take precautions when possible. For example, fill up on a windy day and don’t stand downwind of the fumes. There have not been any recorded cases of miscarriages or birth defects from simply filling a car with gas a few times a month.
Based on what we know and what we don’t know, pumping gas a few times a month is considered safe as pregnancy complications cannot be pinned solely on filling your tank with fuel. It is best to discuss the issue with your doctor or pediatrician to alleviate any doubts.
Should I be concerned with garden and lawn fertilizer and insecticide sprays?
Yes, you are right to voice your concern, but the quantity and exposure come into play again. However, avoiding either working with or exposing yourself to fertilizers and insecticides is the safer option to take.
You do not want to be exposed to toxins unnecessarily, especially during your pregnancy. You may want to avoid home fumigations during this time as well.
Lawn fertilizer is quickly watered down and absorbed into the soil, posing minimal risk, if any. Rather stay safe and avoid any direct contact. Wearing shoes while walking on grass prevents any absorption through the skin and exposes open cuts on your feet to the chemicals.
What about the gas we use for heating?
Good question. The gas used in homes is flammable, but it is contained, so there is no direct threat or risk of you breathing it in. Gas stoves are also contained, but leaks are possible.
Fortunately, propane gas has an odor to it, and you will be able to smell it if there is a leak. There are standard safety requirements for gas usage in the home, and the guidelines should be followed at all times.
A few more words of advice
Being pregnant doesn’t mean you have to stop living or adopt a completely new lifestyle. It simply means that you have to consider your immediate surroundings and think about your baby’s health and well-being.
Just like you decide to stop drinking alcohol or smoking while pregnant or breastfeeding, you should consider all risks as a potential threat to your baby’s health and development. Clarify the details of any advice you receive that you are unsure about with your doctor or pediatrician.