The neon that is used to light the displays you see in storefront windows is a nonflammable, odorless gas. Although the gas isn't a volatile substance, you must follow some safety precautions when you are using neon signs.
Mercury is added to neon to produce the color blue. The chemical can be toxic if it comes into contact with your skin or if you inhale it. Wear gloves and a respirator mask when handling a neon sign in case the sign breaks and exposes you to the gas.
The process involved in tempering glass for neon signs makes the glass extremely fragile. Be careful when you touch the sign to avoid cracking or shattering the glass tubes and cutting yourself.
If you are not sure whether a sign's transformer is in good condition, don't plug it in until an electrician examines it. Old transformers can produce high-voltage shocks that can injure or kill you. No matter how new the sign is, always unplug the transformer when performing maintenance on the sign.
If a sign is leaking neon gas in a non-ventilated area, it can cause headaches and dizziness. Prolonged exposure can also cause suffocation. Immediately seek fresh air and visit the emergency room if you suspect you have been exposed to a neon leak. To prevent leaks, regularly inspect neon lights for any cracks or breaks that need repair.
Christa Titus is a dedicated journalism professional with over 10 years writing experience as a freelancer with a variety of publications that include "Billboard" and "Radio & Records." Her writing has also been syndicated to such media outlets as the "Washington Post," the "Seattle-Post Intelligencer," the Associated Press and Reuters. Titus earned a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Rowan College.