Hydrogen sulfide

Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is a colorless, flammable, very dangerous gas with a “rotten egg” smell. This toxic chemical happens naturally in crude petroleum and when the breakdown of organic matter and human/ animal wastes (sewage) occurs, H2S can develop. (Richards & Bourgeois, 2014, pgs. 308) Hydrogen sulfide main routes of exposure is either by inhalation which can cause death if inhaled in large doses. Depending on the exposure time it can cause severe irritation of the nose and throat, life-threatening buildup of fluid in the lungs, headache, dizziness, staggering, unconsciousness, and death. H2S direct skin contact with liquefied gas can chill or freeze the skin and cause frostbite. Mild frostbite symptoms include numbness, prickling and itching and cause the skin to become waxy white or yellow. Severe frostbite may consist of a burning sensation and stiffness, this can cause the skin to blister, tissue death and infection may develop. H2S gas exposure to the eye can cause irritation and liquefied gas direct contact to the eye can freeze the eye causing permanent eye damage or blindness. Ingestion of H2S is not a relevant route of exposure. The effects of Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) long-term exposure can harm the nervous system, respiratory system and lead to death. (Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S), 2005, October 1, Pg. 1-2)


Richards, I., & Bourgeois, M. (2014). Principles and practice of toxicology in public health (2nd ed.). Burlington, MA: Jones and Bartlett.

Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S). (2005, October 1). Retrieved from https://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/data_Hurricane_Facts/hydrogen_sulfide_fact.pdf

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