skip navigation
New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services

Ideas for a Cleaner Environment
Published monthly by the NH Department of Environmental Services Watershed Assistance Program, Concord, NH (603) 271-7889

May, 2006

Releasing Too Much Gas? New Portable Gasoline Containers Will Help Improve Air and Water Quality

Did you know that portable gasoline containers contribute to air and water pollution in several ways, and may even be affecting your family’s health? Most households contain at least one gasoline container, usually stored in the garage, for refueling yard and garden equipment or recreational vehicles. While pollution from a single gas can seems small, the total number of containers is such that they contribute significantly to smog-forming emissions and water contamination. Air and water pollution from gasoline storage and use has been directly linked to human illnesses and damage to plants and animals.

New and improved fuel containers are now available that have been redesigned to eliminate the release of air pollutants and potential for spillage during use and storage. Consumers can take a positive step toward helping the environment by voluntarily replacing their older cans with these new fuel containers.

Gasoline fumes contain smog-forming volatile organic compounds (or VOCs) that escape from gas cans into the air when fuel is being dispensed. Vapors also escape through secondary vent holes in the cans or inadequately capped spouts and can even permeate through the plastic walls of the container. Sometimes gasoline is spilled onto equipment or on the ground during refueling. When this occurs, chemicals contained in the gasoline, such as benzene, toluene or MtBE, can contaminate drinking water wells, public water supplies and surface waters.

When you shop for a new portable gas container, read the label carefully and look for those that are spill-proof and meet the new standards for VOC emissions. The new cans may be identified by the phrase "Spill-Proof System" or "Spill-Proof Spout" on the label. Special features include: automatic shut-off devices that stop the flow of fuel before the tank can overflow, and that close and seal when removed from the fuel tank; single openings for both filling and pouring, eliminating secondary vent holes; and less permeable materials that limit the amount of vapors that can escape.

Use of these new containers will help New Hampshire meet federally-mandated requirements to reduce harmful air emissions by eliminating more than one ton of VOC emissions per day in the state. By March 1, 2007, retailers will be required by state regulations to only sell the new, spill-proof fuel containers or gas cans that meet new environmentally-safe standards. In the meantime, you can get a jump on helping the environment with your new purchase.

In addition to using the improved gas cans, consumers can protect air and water quality from harmful gasoline contaminants in the following ways:

  • Avoid spilling gasoline on the ground. Don’t top off your fuel tank when filling your lawn mower, snow blower or other yard or recreational equipment.
  • Refuel or repair engines away from water supplies or wells, or if possible, over a concrete floor, and immediately clean up any gas or oil spills.
  • Dispose of waste gasoline and clean up materials safely and properly. Never drain gasoline or oil onto the ground or pour down drains.
  • Never use gasoline to start fires.
  • Use caution when refueling boats to avoid spilling gasoline into waterbodies.
  • Store gasoline properly by keeping the containers tightly closed and placing them in dry, well-ventilated locations. Do not store gasoline in your basement or outdoors.

For More Information

For more information on gasoline containers and the new regulations, contact Michael Fitzgerald of the NHDES Air Resources Division at (800) 498-6868, (603) 271-6390 or

NH Department of Environmental Services | 29 Hazen Drive | PO Box 95 | Concord, NH 03302-0095
(603) 271-3503 | TDD Access: Relay NH 1-800-735-2964 | Hours: M-F, 8am-4pm

copyright 2017. State of New Hampshire