H2S: What to Know About Hydrogen Sulphide

H2S: Everything You Need to Know

If you’re reading this, there is a good chance you’ve heard about H2S many times. Maybe you’ve worked a job that required you to carry a gas monitor throughout your shift. Ask yourself, do you really know all there is to know about the gas? If your answer is no then you are in the right place! Keep reading to learn all you need to know.

What exactly is H2S?

Hydrogen Sulphide, or H2S is a naturally occurring gas. It is often known as sour gas, acid gas or stink damp. H2S is colourless and extremely toxic gas, it is heavier than air in its pure state and smells like rotten eggs. When exposed to this gas in low concentration, it can cause eye and throat irritation. As well, the gas can impair your sense of smell and at higher concentration it can cause immediate death.

H2S is a controlled product under the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) 2015. Any product that contains significant amount or concentration of H2S must be correctly labeled. The correct Safety Data Sheet (SDS) must be available at the worksite and worker should be properly trained when working with or near the product.

Acute Health Effects:

H2S can enter your body through inhalation or eye contact. When inhaled, it dissolves quickly in the blood and carried by the blood stream throughout the body. It shuts down the respiratory control centre in the brain and affects the breathing. As a result, the oxygen in the blood is quickly used up which will make the heart to stop and leads to death, if not treated immediately.

H2S can cause redness, swelling, pain and tearing during eye contact as well as can blurred the vision. The pain can quickly lessen but permanent eye damage or blindness can happen.

Chronic Health Effects

When exposed to H2S at low concentration some long-term health effects may be established. Some research suggests that chronic effects of H2S exposure could cause reduced lung function, neurological effects such as headaches, nausea, depression and personality changes. It can also damage the cardiovascular system.

H2S can be found in a diversity of geological formation and also produced naturally in decaying organic matter. It is also used or is a by-product in many industrial processes such as;

The largest industrial source of H2S is related to oil and gas industry.

How is H2S measured?

There are two parameters that are commonly used to measure H2S concentration: percentage and parts per million(ppm). For every 1% of H2S gas, there are 10,000 ppm of H2S. Government agencies set limits for workers exposure to toxic substances. These levels are there for your safety and must not be ignored. In the end, the goal should be zero exposure.

In Alberta H2S, TWA is 10ppm, meaning the average H2S concentration that a person can be exposed to for 8 hours without risking health effects. As well, the ceiling limit is set at 15ppm, meaning the maximum H2S concentration that a person can be exposed to without respiratory protection.

How is H2S Detected?

Detector tube and electronic monitors are the devices that are particularly designed to detect the presence and concentration of H2S. To use these devices properly, you will need to have proper training and with the use of the device you will be able to reduce the risk of being exposed to hazardous levels of this toxic gas. It may even save your life.

There may be a situation when H2S can be present where you have to work. To do your job without risking your life, you must have a source of quality breathing air. In Canada, all government jurisdictions have legislation about the use of respiratory protective equipment (RPE). The only approved RPE for protection from H2S in the petroleum industry is the type that maintains positive pressure in the face piece.

If you have questions or concerns about H2S monitoring and/or exposure at your workplace, please reach out to our team! Our experts are happy to help solve your problem.


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