In the last blog post, we discussed the effects of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) on infrastructure and how an excess of the colorless gas can corrode pipes, sewer lines, and other equipment. If that’s not bad enough, hydrogen sulfide effects can also corrode human health – even causing death in the highest concentrations. Preventing H2S then becomes critical.

Health Hazards of Hydrogen Sulfide

In terms of human safety, exposure to H2S can be mild to severe – even fatal, as mentioned above. Because the gas is colorless, but not odorless, the smell will usually alert you to effects; however, in larger amounts, you tend to lose your sense of smell and can no longer detect the odor. You usually have mild symptoms, such as tearing of the eyes, skin irritation, and respiratory irritation with smaller levels. Other effects, reported to OSHA, from mild to severe, include:

  • Mucous membrane effects
  • Skin & eye irritation
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Coughing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of smell
  • Poor memory
  • Dizziness
  • Delirium
  • Loss or reduced equilibrium
  • Tremors
  • Convulsions
  • Rapid unconsciousness or “knockdown”
  • Death (in extreme exposure limits)

There are also long-term hydrogen sulfide effects for people who had a high enough concentration for unconsciousness to occur. These effects border on poor motor control, attention span, memory, and continued headaches after waking up. Cardiovascular symptoms have also occurred.

H2S blog on hydrogen sulfide effects

Human Safety Hazards of Hydrogen Sulfide on the Job

Aside from health concerns from hydrogen sulfide, there are safety hazards for workers on-site at wastewater and water treatment plants. Because the gas is highly flammable and explosive, it can cause life-threatening effects when not properly handled. In addition, H2S burns and produces other toxic vapors and gases, among those, is sulfur dioxide, which causes throat and nose irritation, along with irritation to the lungs and eyes. It can also cause difficulty in breathing and swollen lungs in high amounts.

Exposure to liquid hydrogen sulfide results in the risk of “blue skin” or frostbite. If clothing becomes wet, it’s imperative to avoid ignition sources and remove the clothing, allowing it to evaporate in a safe area. Also, falls from “knockdown” as mentioned above can seriously injure a worker.

Preventing Hydrogen Sulfide Effects

Before you can prevent the effects from H2S, you need to know how to detect the gas. Avoiding exposure, of course, is the ideal. A qualified expert should test the air. If the gas is detected, the area needs to be ventilated. If, however, the gas cannot be removed, workers should be equipped with proper personal and protective rescue and communication equipment. A local exhaust ventilation and enclosure can help control the amount in the air. It’s also vital to use non-sparking ventilation systems, safe electrical systems in storage spaces and places where a company uses hydrogen sulfide and approved explosion-proof equipment.

Preventing hydrogen sulfide effects begins with training and educating workers about hazards and controls, along with:

  • Emergency plans and workplace practices
  • Strict regulations and steps for removing the gas – before it gets to hazardous levels
  • Controlling the levels downstream by eliminating the source of H2S whenever possible
  • Confined space procedures
  • Characteristics, health hazards, and sources of hydrogen sulfide

There are also treatments available to remove it, so it’s best to speak to one of our water experts at ATS Innova.

Contact ATS Innova for Hydrogen Sulfide Removal

We would love to hear about your challenges with hydrogen sulfide effects and how our treatment programs can help. Our team of experts’ face water and wastewater treatment issues continually and can discuss with you the best options for your situation. Contact one of our knowledgeable experts today at 855.215.4600. We look forward to speaking with you about water treatment solutions!

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