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Hydrogen Sulfide, Sulfides, and Mercaptans

Hydrogen Sulfide, Sulfides, and Mercaptans


Chemical Treatment Guide 5: RED


Members of this class of gases are colorless but have a strong offensive odor, like rotten eggs or
sewer gas. When they are present at high levels, however, the olfactory senses will be
overwhelmed, making the gas odorless. These chemicals may be found in a liquid form at low
temperatures or high pressures. Clothing that has become soaked in sulfide solutions or
mercaptans may pose a risk to rescuers. These types of chemicals can cause severe respiratory
irritation, including pulmonary edema and respiratory paralysis (especially likely with hydrogen


Cardiovascular collapse, tachycardia, dysrhythmias, irritation of the respiratory tract, cough,
dyspnea, tachypnea, respiratory arrest, pulmonary edema, headache, altered mental status, garlic
taste in mouth, seizures, nausea/vomiting, diarrhea, profuse salivation, dermatitis, sweating, and
possible cyanosis.
• Found in sewers, septic tanks, livestock waste pits, manholes, well pits, and similar settings
• Found in chemical wastes, petroleum, and natural gas (28%)
• Produced in industrial processes that work with sulfur compounds

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