Silo Gas Dangers

After harvested forages are placed in a silo, they often produce gasses during the first two-to-three-weeks of the fermentation process. These gasses include carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrogen dioxide. If you’re exposed to them, leave the area immediately.

Chuck Schwab is an Extension safety specialist at Iowa State University. He says nitrogen dioxide is the most harmful gas in that mixture, and you can see it.

"A yellowish or a reddish vapor, sort of like a fog hanging over the silage itself. That gas is denser than air, and so what it will typically do is stay low," says Schwab. "So, in the silo it will be right along the surface. It can also travel down the chute and fill the bottom parts of a building if you’re connected to it."

If you know you will be exposed to the gasses, make sure you have your own oxygen supply and breathing apparatus. Schwab says the nitrogen dioxide can be very lethal.

"It can be lethal in two ways. It can be immediate because of the dosage that you get, it causes all kinds of problems to your respiratory system," he says. "However, even small amounts of the gas that you breathe in and maybe not create a noticeable, initial reaction to your body, if you don’t seek medical help right away it could actually still end up resulting in a fatality."

Even weeks later you could develop fluid in the lungs, which can be deadly.