Exposure to petroleum products like gasoline can affect the skin, eyes and respiratory tract. Petroleum tends to be most dangerous when its fumes are inhaled, but long-term exposure to the skin also carries risks.
If one regularly comes into skin contact with petroleum-based products, the best method for reducing exposure is to wear gloves. If one, for example, pumps gas for a living, wearing gloves can cut down on skin exposure.
Over time, handling of petroleum products may result in tissue death of the skin. One may develop a dry rash, or have cracked skin. If one is pumping fuel, then the best method to cut down risk is to wash hands immediately after pumping.
Petroleum products on the hands may also be transferred to the eyes, if one brings the hands in contact with the eyes. Eye exposure to petroleum may result in burns of the eyes, which can permanently affect sight. Washing hands directly after exposure is recommended to avoid this risk.
Washing hands after using petroleum products is valuable too, since those in the form of gasoline are flammable. If one is a smoker, and lights up a cigarette after pumping gas, there can be tragic consequences. The hands can easily catch fire when they have been exposed to petroleum.
In the form of petroleum jelly, like Vaseline, the petroleum present is thought to cause few risks to the skin. It can however, break down condoms and should never be used as a sexual lubricant. It may also contain impurities or other chemicals, which may cause skin damage after long-term use.
The primary risks of petroleum products are that it frequently contains other chemicals when processed that can be hazardous to the health. Thus many petroleum products like fuel can be risky to the health in the ways listed above.
The process of refining petroleum for use in other products has led, according to some environmental reports, to soil contamination, particularly with the chemicals used to refine petroleum. Environmentalists feel that such contamination may enter water supply and food sources, thus posing a health risk to all individuals. These statements are not proven. However, given previous findings on petroleum additives, it is safe to assume that one should exercise care, particularly around auto fuel and motor oil, and wash hands thoroughly after exposure.