Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) also known as hydrosulfuric acid or sewer gas, occurs naturally in crude petroleum, natural gas, volcanic gases, hot springs and is produced by decomposing organic material. It is an odourless and highly flammable substance. This highly toxic material is a common byproduct in industries such as food processing, coke ovens, tanneries, and petroleum refineries.
Exposure to H2S
Acceptable Exposure Levels
Maximal exposure levels, acceptable in terms of OH&S, are generally placed between 10 & 20 parts per million (ppm)
Exposure to high concentrations of Hydrogen Sulfide may result in loss of consciousness or in some cases, death. The substance€s toxicity is caused by its effect on cellular respiration (similarly to carbon monoxide & Hydrogen cyanide).
At low concentration levels H2S is detectable (10-20 ppm) by its pungent smell. However, continued exposure may numb the sense of smell creating the illusion that the danger has passed.
Symptoms of H2S Exposure
Exposure to low concentrations of Hydrogen Sulfide may result in:
- Sore throat
- Cough shortness of breath
- Irritation of the eye, nose & throat
Brief Exposure to High concentrations of Hydrogen Sulfide may result in:
- Loss of consciousness
Hydrogen sulfide is heavier then air and thus accumulates in €pools€ in poorly ventilated areas. For this reason the gas may accumulate in high concentrations. Potential danger places are found in places where organic matter is decomposing.
Potentially dangerous sites include:
- Sewage treatment plants
- Agricultural- manure storage or livestock confinement
- Textile industries
- Petroleum or natural gas mining
- Petroleum or natural gas refining
Duram Personal Escape Masks are designed to provide emergency protection from a wide range of chemicals including H2S. They provide a simple and effective solution to OH&S issues such as potential exposure to Hydrogen Sulfide.
To access more information regarding Hydrogen Sulfide and safe working practices please consult the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) website.