Safety Tip of the Week – Hydrogen Sulfide Safety

Hydrogen sulfide is a colorless, flammable, extremely hazardous gas with a “rotten egg” smell.

It occurs naturally in crude petroleum and natural gas and can be produced by the breakdown of organic matter and human/animal wastes (e.g., sewage).

It is heavier than air and can collect in low-lying and enclosed, poorly ventilated areas such as basements, manholes, sewer lines, and underground telephone/electrical vaults.

Health Effects:

  • Health effects vary with how long, and at what level, you are exposed. Asthmatics may be at greater risk.
  • Low concentrations – irritation of eyes, nose, throat, or respiratory system; effects can be delayed.
  • Moderate concentrations – more severe eye and respiratory effects, headache, dizziness, nausea, coughing, vomiting and difficulty breathing.
  • High concentrations – shock, convulsions, unable to breathe, coma, death; onset can be extremely rapid (within a few breaths).

If you are working in an area where hydrogen sulfide is present, every worker should be equipped with their own hydrogen sulfide detector that will sound an alarm if the level in the atmosphere reaches 10 ppm.

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