The employment of illuminating gas manufactured from coal is about a century old. The original method, exclusively in vogue for many years, was by destructive distillation of soft coal. The operation is simple: The coal is heated strongly in a closed vessel, and the gases produced are cooled, purified and distributed. The impurities of the crude gas are numerous, but of only few types. Ammonium compounds and sulphur compounds are the most objectionable, and much attention has been given to devising methods for their removal, which in well-operated works is satisfactorily accomplished. The purified gas as conducted into the storage tanks consists principally of hydrogen and hydrocarbons, among the latter being methane, ethene and benzene. Some carbon monoxid is also present.
Laboratory experiment and clinical experience have shown that gas made in this manner has not very high toxic qualities. The hydrocarbons and hydrogen are rather negative than positive. They
LEFFMANN H. THE DANGERS OF THE DOMESTIC USE OF ILLUMINATING GAS AND THE MEANS OF AVOIDING THEM. JAMA. 1905;XLIV(22):1729–1731. doi:10.1001/jama.1905.92500490005001b
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