What is Butane?

Butane (chemical formula: C4H10), is a colourless liquified gas, with a natural gas to odourless smell. Butane is stable and does not react with water or metals. It is soluble in alcohol, ether and chloroform. Butane is packed as a liquid under pressure, but sudden release of pressure may result in rapid evaporation. Butane is highly flammable and explosive.

What is Butane used for?

Butane gas can be found in common household items, such as: 

  • Fuel canisters for portable stoves
  • Gas cylinders for barbeques
  • Cigarette lighters
  • Butane torches
  • Fridges, freezers and air conditioning  
  • Aerosol cans    
Cigarette lighters are fueled by liquefied butane
Cigarette lighters are fueled by liquefied butane

Butane Hazards

The routes of exposure for butane include inhalation, skin and eye contact. Ingestion is not normally a hazard due to the gaseous state of butane. 

Inhalation of butane is not harmful at low concentrations, however higher doses may cause headaches, confusion, drowsiness, dizziness, sleepiness, reduced alertness, loss of reflexes/coordination, vertigo, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting and irregular heart beats. Suffocation from vapours can result when the chemical replaces breathing air. 

Repeated skin exposure may cause skin cracking, flaking and even frostbite. Entry into the bloodstream through open cuts or wounds may also lead to other harmful effects.

Direct eye contact may cause tearing and redness, but similar to ingestion, this isn’t very likely due to being a gas. 

Butane Safety

If inhaled, remove the individual from the contaminated area to the nearest fresh air source and ensure they are kept warm and rested. If the patient is not breathing and you are qualified to do so, administer CPR, preferably with a bag-valve mask device. Monitor the patient’s breathing and pulse continuously. Seek medical attention immediately.

Swallowing butane is not considered a likely route of poisoning. If this does occur, seek medical attention.

In the event of exposure to skin, remove all contaminated clothing, footwear and accessories and flush the affected area with plenty of soap and water. If frostbite occurs, bathe the area in lukewarm water without rubbing the skin. Seek medical attention immediately.

If eye exposure occurs, flush the eye with plenty of cool water for at least 15 minutes. Ensure the patient opens their eyelids fully to allow the substance to evaporate. The patient should not rub their eyes or tightly shut their eyes. Seek medical attention immediately. 

Butane Safety Handling

Emergency eyewash fountains should be accessible nearby work areas. Explosion proof ventilation hoods are usually required to ensure air contaminants are at controlled levels. As an odourless gas, it can go undetected and without warning—detectors for LEL and UEL should be used in case a leakage occurs.  

The PPE recommended when handling butane includes chemical goggles, full face shields (in addition to googles), cloth/leather/insulated gloves, overalls, static-free clothing, air supplied breathing equipment and non-conductive footwear. 

As a highly explosive and flammable chemical, butane must be handled with caution and care. Click here for a trial of our SDS Management Software or contact us at sales@chemwatch.net for more information about our chemicals management solutions.