What Are the Dangers of Hydrogen Sulfide Gas?
Hydrogen sulfide is becoming a greater concern across the Eagle Ford Shale as many of the wells are producing and/or exposing workers to its dangers.
Hydrogen sulfide occurs naturally in the environment and is also produced by many manufacturing plants.
It is highly identifiable by its rotten-egg smell and is typically found in or near some oil and gas production wells and near paper and pulp mills, asphalt plants, waste landfills, slaughter houses, sewer plants and waste treatment plants. Moreover, it is considered one of the most common toxic air pollutants, causing serious health effects for both children and adults.
- Definition of Hydrogen Sulfide
Hydrogen sulfide, also commonly referred to as dihydrogen sulfide, sulfide hydride, hydrosulfuric acid, swamp gas, sewer gas, hepatic acid and sour gas, is a highly flammable and colorless gas produced by decomposing organic matter. It is naturally found in hot springs, natural gas, volcanic gases, and human and animal waste. Aside from these sources, hydrogen sulfide is created from other industrial activities, including petroleum refineries, coke ovens, paper mills, sugar beet and wood pulp processing, and mining operations. Plus, it used to generate sulfuric acid and elemental sulfur.
- Exposure to Hydrogen Sulfide
Hydrogen sulfide is primarily released as a gas into the air. Because of this, one of the main routes for hydrogen sulfide exposure is through inhalation. Hydrogen sulfide is readily absorbed in the lungs, increasing breathing problems and other respiratory issues. You can also be exposed to hydrogen sulfide from breathing polluted air and contact with contaminated water. People who work in certain industries such as mining, and oil and natural gas drilling and refining are more likely to be exposed to higher levels of hydrogen sulfide.
- Health Effects and Hydrogen Sulfide
Hydrogen sulfide can drastically affect your heath. Therefore, it is extremely important to know some signs and symptoms of hydrogen sulfide gas poisoning to reduce your chances of becoming ill. Low-concentration exposure (anything less than 50 ppm [parts per million]) can potentially cause headaches; eye, ear and throat irritations; breathing problems (especially with current asthma patients); poor attention span and motor function; and bad memory. Higher concentrations (typically 100 ppm or greater) can cause a loss of consciousness and even bring about the possibility of death in some cases. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration set a limit of 20 ppm of allowable hydrogen sulfide in the workplace. Under these requirements, exposure is considered harmless.