Hydrogen sulfide exposure is more probable for those who live or work near industrial facilities such as pulp and paper mills, gas refineries, geothermal power plants, or landfills. Hydrogen sulfide is an inert gas with a distinct “rotten egg” odor at low concentrations. It is highly toxic and flammable. Natural hydrogen sulfide exposure occurs in places such as manure landfills, sewers, oil and gas wells, well water, and volcanoes.

Hydrogen sulfide may build up in low-lying, confined areas like manholes, sewers, and underground phone vaults since it is heavier than air. Due to its presence, working in small areas may be quite risky. The amount and duration of hydrogen sulfide exposure have an impact on a worker’s health. However, even in low quantities, there are significant consequences.


After exposure to hydrogen sulfide, the eyes and respiratory system may become irritated. It may also result in:

  • apnea
  • coma
  • convulsions
  • dizziness
  • headache
  • weakness
  • irritability
  • insomnia
  • upset stomach
  • frostbite (if liquid)

Workers who are exposed to hydrogen sulfide risk injury. The dosage, timeframe, and kind of work determine the exposure level.


Doctors often find little value in specific testing for hydrogen sulfide exposure in urine and blood. Blood and urine testing, in conjunction with other tests, may be performed to evaluate if a severe exposure has affected the nerves, kidneys, brain, or heart. Inhaling hydrogen sulfide may necessitate a chest X-ray and blood tests to determine if the lungs have been damaged. Testing is not always required.


The victim of hydrogen sulfide exposure should be removed from the polluted location and placed in a well-ventilated, fresh-air environment as soon as possible. To prevent exposure to the gas, emergency personnel must take safeguards against dangerous materials. Recommendations for detecting and reacting to chemical suicides are provided by Emergency Medical Management. Included in the precautions is the use of respirators (self-contained respiratory apparatus).

Intubation may be necessary in extreme situations to give ventilatory assistance and secure the airway. Initiate intravenous (IV) access or other initial supportive care as required.

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