Hydrogen sulfide is a toxic, colorless gas that can prove deadly when inhaled in large concentrations. Oil refineries, wastewater treatment, agricultural silos, food production/processing, asphalt pavement, mining, and sanitation are all industries that commonly experience buildups of this toxic gas. Whether your company falls into one of these categories or not, though, you should educate yourself on the potential dangers of hydrogen sulfide exposure. In this post, we’re going to reveal why hydrogen sulfide is dangerous and how companies can reduce the risk of exposure in their workplace.
How Hydrogen Sulfide Is Produced
Hydrogen sulfide is produced naturally from decaying organic matter. During the decay process, chemical reactions occur which produce this otherwise toxic gas. This is why it’s oftentimes found in food production/processing industries along with sanitation workers. The decaying organic matter releases this gas into the workplace, leaving workers susceptible to life-threatening illnesses.
Of course, some industries use hydrogen sulfide in their workplace. It’s a powerful byproduct that’s cheap and versatile, making it a popular choice in certain industrial industries. Hydrogen sulfide is also extremely flammable, which is another reason why some industries use it.
Why Hydrogen Sulfide Is Dangerous
Exposure to hydrogen sulfide is dangerous for a number of reasons. According to the Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OHSA), hydrogen sulfide is both an irritant and a chemical asphyxiant, essentially preventing your body from inhaling oxygen. Symptoms vary depending on the concentration and duration of exposure.
Minor short-term exposure may cause burning in the eyes, throat, and nose along with shortness of breath. More severe long-term exposure, however, may cause headaches, inflammation, digestive problems, vomiting, vertigo, and dizziness. In extreme cases, long-term exposure to high concentrations of hydrogen sulfide may cause shock, inability to breathe, coma, or even death. There have been numerous fatal cases from hydrogen sulfide exposure, so this isn’t something companies should take lightly.
Identifying Hydrogen Sulfide
The good news is that it’s fairly easy to identify hydrogen sulfide leaks and exposure. Although the gas is colorless, it does possess a rather unpleasant smell. Many people compare the smell of hydrogen sulfide to rotten eggs. In fact, it’s oftentimes referred to as “stink damp” and “swamp gas.” Training your employees to be aware of such odors is one step towards creating a safer work environment.
If employees are working in areas at high risk for hydrogen sulfide, the air should be tested before they enter. And if the test comes back positive for hydrogen sulfide, even with a low concentration, it must be properly ventilated to remove the toxic gas. Exposure to this hydrogen sulfide isn’t something you can risk with your employees.
Hopefully, this will give you a better understanding of the potential dangers of hydrogen sulfide exposure. This naturally occurring gas releases a foul odor that’s comparable to rotten eggs. Even in small concentrations, exposure may result in some pretty unpleasant symptoms. If hydrogen sulfide is a concern in your workplace, train your employees on how to identify