Hydrogen Sulfide

Hydrogen sulfide, or H2S, is a high-density gas that has a distinctive pungent scent. This gas is often produced by human waste and can also be naturally released from natural gas and petroleum. Common human exposure occurs in wastewater plants, sewers, and oil and gas industries. Although hydrogen sulfide does not accumulate in the body, repeated exposure can cause health implications.

Due to its ability to be naturally produced, H2S is released into many different work environments. Workplaces experiencing such exposure include paper factories, rayon manufactures, agricultural farmers, food processing, and mining. Measuring exposure limits is often conducted through wearable volatile organic compound (VOC) gas detectors. These detectors are limited to substance specific sensors which can be inconvenient when in an unpredictable workplace. The substance specific sensors often fall into what is known as broad range sensors, which are unable to differentiate between different chemicals causing a poor sensitivity.

Hydrogen sulfide detector tubes are also utilized to measure H2S exposure. This tool indicates gas detection through a color change. The length of the color change usually specifies the measured gas concentration. Detector tubes lack specificity since other interfering gases may alter a sampled measurement.

Personal assessment of odor concentration should not be relied on when assessing workplace exposure. A phenomenon known as olfactory desensitization can hinder one’s judgement on sense of smell. When being exposed to H2S losing the ability to smell highly concentrated hydrogen sulfide is quite dangerous. The intensity of an odor can be dismissed due to olfactory desensitization.

Personal exposure to hydrogen sulfide can affect the human respiratory system and central nervous system. Exposure to low concentrations can cause allergy like symptoms including itchy red eyes and skin and throat irritation. Repeated exposure to low concentrations can cause headaches, fatigue, insomnia, vomiting, and weight loss. Inhaling very high concentrations of H2S can cause life altering side effects such as unconsciousness, coma, and even death. Therefore, it is very critical to monitor for personal exposure when in a work environment that handles this gas.

The OSHA limit for H2S in workplace air is 20 ppm with a ceiling limit of a 15-minute time average. The NIOSH limit includes 10 ppm for a 10-minute work period. Nematic Technologies offers a reliable alternative to VOC gas detectors and detector tubes through BadgAIR, a wearable chemical monitoring badge. BadgAIR is equipped with Bluetooth and built-in disposable sensor chips. The encasement features a compact and lightweight design enabling worker productivity. The sensor chips offer high selectivity to provide real-time exposure levels. In addition, there is no calibration or maintenance required. To find out more contact us today!