Rotten Eggs

Did you know that May is National Egg Month?  Neither did we… until now!

Though this may not be the most commendable and complimentary way to celebrate eggs, we thought we would take this opportunity to discuss one of most dangerous hazards in the maritime industry, which just so happens to express a “rotten egg” smell – hydrogen sulfide, or H2S.  Hydrogen sulfide is a colorless gas that presents major health hazards, the severity of which are dependent upon the amount of time and concentration to which one has been exposed.  Exposure may cause eye, nose, throat, and respiratory system irritation, headache, eye inflammation, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, confusion, irritability, excitability, insomnia, digestive issues, weight loss, staggering, unconsciousness, shock, convulsions, inability to breathe, coma, and death.

Perhaps one of the more alarming aspects of hydrogen sulfide is that its signature smell fades or disappears completely due to olfactory fatigue (also known as odor fatigue, olfactory adaptation, and nose blindness), or the temporary inability to smell an odor after prolonged exposure.  This may happen over a lengthier period when exposed to lower concentrations of the compound, and extremely rapidly or instantaneously when presented with higher concentrations.  It is essential that workers understand the grave danger of being exposed to this gas and that they evacuate any space immediately if even a hint of this smell is detected.

BOLO: Be on the lookout for H2S readings in tanks holding sewage, gray water, food waste, crude oil, natural gas, or any organic matter that may have produced the gas during decomposition (e.g. ballast or mud tanks, seafood holds).

Check out the following references for more information:

CDC Hydrogen Sulfide ToxFAQ™
CDC Sulfuro de hidrógeno (Hydrogen Sulfide) ToxFAQs™
EPA Toxicological Review of Hydrogen Sulfide
NIOSH Occupational Health Guideline for Hydrogen Sulfide
OSHA Hydrogen Sulfide QuickCard™, English
OSHA Datos Rápidos: SulfurodeHidrógeno (H2S)

Stay safe!