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Do Fuel Cells Carry Any Danger for Human Health?

By June 9, 2022 4   min read  (619 words)

June 9, 2022 |

Fuel Cells Works, Do Fuel Cells Carry Any Danger for Human Health?

Any new technology raises concerns as it gains popularity, and fuel cells are no different. While their potential as a vehicle power source is clear, some people worry about their safety. After all, using hydrogen as a fuel can bring to mind images of the Hindenburg disaster.

Despite these concerns, hydrogen fuel cells are safe, especially compared to conventional vehicles. Here’s a closer look at potential human health risks with fuel cells and why they’re not as pressing as they may seem at first.

Potential Health Hazards With Fuel Cells

Fuel cells carry two main human health concerns: combustibility and electric shock risks. Hydrogen has a lower ignition energy than gasoline or natural gas, making it combust more easily. That can cause people to worry about potential explosions in a traffic accident or mishandling of the fuel in transit.

While hydrogen is highly flammable, the tanks that store it in cars and transport vehicles are specially designed to keep it safe. That includes using special materials that don’t become brittle when contacting the fuel and using leak detection equipment.

Hydrogen also has several other qualities that make it safer than conventional fuels. Since it’s lighter than air, it will quickly dissipate in a leak, so there’s a much smaller window for ignition or explosion to occur. While conventional fuels like gasoline no longer contain lead, which can harm children even in small amounts, they still pose health risks, but hydrogen is non-toxic.

The other main concern with fuel cells is their high voltage. While these voltages can be dangerous, hydrogen cars have safety features like insulation and isolation to mitigate them. Safety studies show these measures meet vehicle safety standards even after a crash.

Fuel Cells’ Indirect Health Effects

While fuel cells themselves are safe, current hydrogen production methods may carry health risks. Most notably, most hydrogen still uses fossil fuels in the production process. Emissions from these fuels increase the risk of lung cancer, strokes, asthma and heart attacks. Consequently, increased reliance on hydrogen could mean increased hazards from greenhouse gas emissions.

These emissions are perhaps the most hazardous factor surrounding fuel cells, but their solution is relatively straightforward. If green hydrogen replaces current fossil fuel-reliant processes, increased hydrogen production won’t increase these health hazards.

Experts predict hydrogen production costs to fall by 50% through 2030, making green hydrogen a more affordable practice. As these expenses shrink, green methods will make up an increasing proportion of overall hydrogen production. Before long, using fuel cells will no longer mean contributing to hazardous pollution through fossil fuels.

When Handled Correctly, Fuel Cells Are Completely Safe

Overall, hydrogen fuel cells pose fewer risks than conventional vehicle power sources. While hydrogen is highly flammable and fuel cells require high voltages, several standard safety practices mitigate these threats. If companies store and transport fuel correctly and build appropriate safeguards into vehicles, fuel cells won’t carry any significant risks to human health.

Fuel cells’ greatest hazard is fossil fuels in production, which companies and authorities can easily address. It’s worth noting that these risks are higher in traditional vehicles, too. Considering all of this, hydrogen fuel cells are completely safe.

About the Author
Jane Marsh

Jane Marsh, Contributor

Jane Marsh is the Editor-in-Chief of Environment.co. Jane covers topics related to climate policy, sustainability, green technology, renewable energy and more.

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Fuel Cells Works, its directors, partners, staff, contributors, or suppliers. Any content provided by our contributors or authors are of their own opinion and are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual or anyone or anything.

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