Hydrogen Sulfide is commonly found in crude petroleum and natural gas. It is produced by the bacterial decomposition of organic matter and can also be found in sewerage plants, livestock pens, bogs or swamps. In high concentrations, hydrogen sulfide gas can be extremely dangerous. If you’ve been exposed to a harmful level, the effects of hydrogen sulfide can range in severity from nausea to death.

Do you regularly work in processes that produce hydrogen sulfide gas? While the gas has been found in homes as a result of plumbing leaks, there is a greater chance for overexposure in workplaces and industrial settings. Depending on your industry, high levels of hydrogen sulfide could cause injury or death if not properly detected. Protect the health of your workers by understanding the dangers and signs of H2S poisoning and by installing gas detectors that can provide early warnings.

Dangerous Effects of Hydrogen Sulfide

Exposure to hydrogen sulfide usually occurs through inhalation, but occasionally can cause skin or eye irritation. Due to the invisible nature of gas, the spread of hydrogen sulfide has no bounds. While its foul-smell can warn of a hazardous leak, your sense of smell isn’t reliable. High concentrations of H2S in the air can actually corrupt your senses from working (olfactory desensitization), which could put your health at grave risk.

The dangerous nature of hydrogen sulfide is reflected in its ability to affect every organ in your body. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry (ASTDR), prolonged exposure could cause eye irritation, fluid in the lungs, and eventual loss of consciousness. Your prognosis is usually determined by the amount of H2S that you were exposed to, especially if you’re wondering about your long term outcome.

Pro Tip:  We have a selection of gas detectors that can be set up as hydrogen sulfide monitors for your facility’s detection system.

Symptoms of Exposure

Depending on the length of time and amount of hydrogen sulfide exposure, your symptoms will range in severity. To enable detection systems to monitor levels of exposure, OSHA has set a permissible exposure limit for H2S gas of 10 ppm over an 8-hour period. Anything higher than that could cause extensive injuries or death.

Low Concentrations (10 ppm or less)

  • Burning eyes
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headache
  • Nausea

Moderate Concentrations

  • Eye irritation
  • Fluid in lungs
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Insomnia

High Concentrations (100 ppm or greater)

  • Tremors
  • Convulsions
  • Rapid unconsciousness
  • Coma
  • Death

Hydrogen Sulfide Poisoning: What To Do

If you’ve been exposed to hydrogen sulfide, the most important thing to do is to not panic. While it is a very toxic gas, there might be time before you start experiencing symptoms. For eye or skin exposure, it’s important to wash immediately and remove all of your clothing. If you’ve inhaled hydrogen sulfide, try to get to fresh air and away from the contaminated area.

No matter the situation, it is crucial for you to get to a hospital immediately, even if you’re exposed to low concentrations. While headache or nausea might see like minimal concerns, those symptoms could be your first warning of a nervous system failure.

Protect Your Buildings from H2S Gas

In workplaces where hydrogen sulfide gas is produced, the effects of exposure can cause bodily harm as well as damage to your equipment. Due to the flammable nature of H2S, it’s critical for wastewater facilities and industrial manufacturers to have a reliable gas detector in place at all times.

Does your business have an H2S gas monitor? Connect with our team to choose the best detection system for your area.