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How To Reduce The Risks Of Hydrogen Sulfide

chemical formula of hydrogen sulfide


You may have noticed that after eating certain foods, your gut produces sulfuric burps. This is hydrogen sulfide in a small enough amount that it won't hurt you. But what happens when you get exposed to a large volume of hydrogen sulfide gas in your line of work? 

Continue reading to learn how to protect yourself from the risks of hydrogen sulfide exposure.


What Is Hydrogen Sulfide?

Hydrogen sulfide is a colorless, flammable gas that has a rotten egg smell. It occurs naturally in many places and is released from volcanoes, natural gas, and swamps, as well as from human sources such as sewage, manure, and rotting organic matter. Hydrogen sulfide can react with water in the air to form sulfuric acid, which causes acid rain. Though humans can also produce a small amount of it, a higher exposure could be deadly. The health hazard of the gas is more pronounced in certain industries, including mining, sewage plant treatment, and petroleum and natural gas drilling.


What Are the Hydrogen Sulfide Risks?

The risks of hydrogen sulfide vary depending on the amount of exposure. Symptoms of a mild exposure usually involve:

  • Burning eyes

  • Coughing

  • Shortness of breath

Whereas moderate levels of hydrogen sulfide often cause the following:

  • Severe eye irritation

  • Severe respiratory irritation

  • Headache

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Staggering

The symptoms of a more severe exposure include:

  • Shock

  • Convulsions

  • Inability to breathe

  • Fast unconsciousness

  • Coma

  • Death

Higher concentration of and exposure to the gas is associated with more serious and life-threatening health hazards.


Protection From H2S Exposure 

There are several things you can do in order to reduce the risks of hydrogen sulfide.   


Wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) when you know that you may be exposed to high concentration of the gas. Hydrogen sulfide PPE includes:

  • Full-face air-purifying respirators (APR)

  • Self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA)

  • Protective gloves and clothing

Having proper training on what to do when exposure occurs can help catch it in time and protect yourself from possible health risks. This emergency response knowledge includes:

  • Eye exposure: make sure you remove any contact lenses and then rinse your eyes (eyelids included) for 15 minutes before seeking medical attention after being exposed to hydrogen sulfide.

  • Skin exposure: requires seeking medical attention after soaking the affected clothing before removal to avoid a chemical reaction to the skin.

  • Fire response: should begin by cutting off the supply to the gas (if possible). Once that is complete, water should be used to put out any fires and keep the affected equipment, structures cool. Dry chemicals, carbon dioxide, or foam may also be used to suppress any fire.

  • Mild inhalation response: requires getting to fresh air and seeking medical attention as soon as possible.

  • Severe inhalation response: For a severe inhalation where the person has collapsed, you should:

            - Call 911

            - Get them to fresh air

            - Perform CPR (if trained)

            - Get them to a medical facility as soon as possible


Additionally, you can take measures for safety in an administrative and engineering capacity. Implementing additional rules and regulations, including safety training and gas level testing can be extremely helpful. Engineering should consider implementing explosive-proof ventilation systems are crucial to industries that deal with these things daily.


Hydrogen Sulfide Exposure

Knowing what hydrogen sulfide looks like can help to protect you from the risks of exposure. If you think you've been exposed, get to fresh air right away. Then, see a doctor. This can help to save your life.


Contact Priority Safety Services and Rentals for more information on training for H2S safety in Grande Prairie.



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