Public Lab Wiki documentation

Hydrogen Sulfide

This is a revision from May 09, 2017 18:56. View all revisions
5 | 38 | | #476

« Back to Air Quality

Hydrogen Sulfide, or H2S, is

Framing the problem

  • Where is this an issue?
  • Who's working on this already?
  • What information is missing, if any? How will it change the situation?
  • What are they key parameters:
  • what equipment is available today, and who has access to it? How much does it cost and what is its sensitivity/latency? How much does it weigh and how does it work (air grab sample, continuous flow, soil sample?)
  • who are the potential users? What should the output data look like? Graphs, logs, lights, images?
  • what are the data’s uses/outcomes? Legal? Avoidance? Remediation? Regulation?
  • are there alternative means of detecting which are dramatically different/cheaper?
    • silver film tarnishes with exposure to H2S (see attached PDF)


Hydrogen sulfide is a colorless, flammable, extremely hazardous gas with a “rotten egg” smell. It occurs naturally in crude petroleum and natural gas, and can be produced by the breakdown of organic matter and human/ animal wastes (e.g., sewage). It is heavier than air and can collect in low-lying and enclosed, poorly ventilated areas such as basements, manholes, sewer lines and underground telephone/electrical vaults.

Detection by Smell Can be smelled at low levels, but with continuous lowlevel exposure or at higher concentrations you lose your ability to smell the gas even though it is still present. At high concentrations – your ability to smell the gas can be lost instantly. DO NOT depend on your sense of smell for indicating the continuing presence of this gas or for warning of hazardous concentrations.

Health Effects Health effects vary with how long, and at what level, you are exposed. Asthmatics may be at greater risk. Low concentrations – irritation of eyes, nose, throat, or respiratory system; effects can be delayed. Moderate concentrations – more severe eye and respiratory effects, headache, dizziness, nausea, coughing, vomiting and difficulty breathing. High concentrations – shock, convulsions, unable to breathe, coma, death; effects can be extremely rapid (within a few breaths).

(Exposure information from