Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) is one of the major dangers for individuals that work in the petroleum industry. This gas is incredibly poisonous, is almost invisible to the naked eye and is also incredibly flammable. Understanding the dangers of H2S is a vital component for individuals that are taking H2S Alive training. This page will outline all of the major and minor dangers when the gas is present.
The human body has a natural tolerance to low level’s (below 2ppm) of H2S gas. Because it is naturally produced in our bodies we have enzymes developed to help oxidize, break-down and turn it into harmless sulfates. The body can process these gases infinitely in very low volumes. It is when concentrations of this gas increase that cause detrimental negative effects on our bodies.
The main contact points for exposure of this gas is by breathing it in but you can also receive the negative effects through eye and skin contact. High concentrations of inhaled H2S can overwhelm our bodies and cause damage to our central nervous. H2S gas is a broad spectrum poison that poisons several different components of the body with the greatest negative impact occurring on the nervous system. When contacted with soft tissue in the throat or lungs it forms sodium sulfide which is a caustic material that can irritate the affected organs. Low concentrations can cause a sore throat and cough, nausea, shortness of breath and fluid in the lungs. An early sign of its effects can be irritation to the eye. It is an eye irritant because it is soluble in water and other liquids. An early sign of low concentrations of H2S gas is eye irritation.
High level concentrations of H2S would not occur at home, most workplaces or in the natural environment. The highest and most lethal concentrations can be found within the petroleum industry which is why it is crucial for individuals to become properly trained in safety precautions and procedures. With high levels of H2S a few breaths can be lethal.
Long Term Low Concentrations
Long term effect to low level exposures of H2S include fatigue, headaches, irritability, loss of appetite, poor memory and dizziness. Some studies suggest that long term exposure to low levels of H2S have led to increases in miscarriage and reproductive health issues. The effects from low level concentrations of H2S go away within a few weeks when exposure ends.
H2S is highly explosive and only requires a concentration of 4% for a flash fire when exposed to a relatively cool heat source of 232 Degree Celsius. To put that temperature into perspective it would only take 1/3 of the temperature required to light a cigarette to cause a flash fire.
Due to the variety of dangers that H2S gas presents itself it is vital for individuals that work in areas in which it is present to take proper precautions and training. Calgary First Aid proudly features H2S alive programs for individuals looking for certification and training through an Enform certified provider.