Methane is an odorless, colorless flammable gas. It is used primarily as fuel to make heat and light. It is also used to manufacture organic chemicals. Methane can be formed by the decay of natural materials and is common in landfills, marshes, septic systems and sewers.

Methane can form an EXPLOSIVE mixture in air at levels as low as 5 percent. You can smell leaking methane only when commercial gas utility companies add a chemical smell to it or when it mixes naturally with hydrogen sulfide, causing a "rotten egg" smell. If you can smell it, the level may be too high to be safe.

Methane can also be found in coal gas. Pockets of methane exist naturally underground. In homes, methane may be used to fuel a water heater, stove and clothes dryer.

Methane evaporates quickly. Therefore, most of the methane that ends up in lakes, streams, or soil is eventually released into the air. However, methane that is formed underground and moves through soil can remain unchanged for many years.

(P-44837  Revised 12/2010)

This fact sheet summarizes information about this chemical and is not a complete listing of all possible effects. It does not refer to work exposure or emergency situations.


Last Revised: November 23, 2014