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Sci Total Environ. 2006 Aug 15;367(1):1-22. Epub 2006 May 2.

Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) and sour gas effects on the eye. A historical perspective.

Author information

1
Environmental Health, Calgary Health Region, 1509 Centre St SW, Calgary Alberta, T2G 2E6, Canada. tim.lambert@calgaryheathregion.ca

Abstract

The toxicology of hydrogen sulfide (H(2)S) and sour gas on the eye has a long history beginning at least with Ramazzini's observations [Ramazzini B. Diseases of Workers--De Morbis Artificum Diatriba--1713. Wright WC (trans). New York, C. Hafner Publishing Co Inc.; 1964. 98-99 pp.]. In contrast, a recent review by Alberta Health and Wellness (AHW Report) concluded that there is little evidence of eye irritation following short-term exposures to H(2)S at concentrations up to 100ppm and that the H(2)S literature on the eye is a series of unsubstantiated claims reproduced in review articles dating back to the 1930s [Alberta Health and Wellness (AHW report). Health effects associated with short-term exposure to low levels of hydrogen sulfide: a technical review, Alberta Health and Wellness, October 2002, 81pp.]. In this paper, we evaluated this claim through a historical review of the toxicology of the eye. Ramazzini noted the effects of sewer gas on the eye [Ramazzini B. Diseases of Workers--De Morbis Artificum Diatriba--1713. Wright WC (trans). New York, C. Hafner Publishing Co Inc. 1964. 98-99 pp.]. Lehmann experimentally showed eye effects in men at 70-90ppm H(2)S and also in animals [Lehmann K. Experimentalle Studien uber den Einfluss technisch und hygienisch wichtiger Gase und Dampfe auf den Organismus. Arch Hyg 1892;14:135-189]. In 1923, Sayers, Mitchell and Yant reported eye effects in animals and men at 50ppm H(2)S. Barthelemy showed eye effects in animals and men at 20ppm H(2)S [Barthelemy HL. Ten years' experience with industrial hygiene in connection with the manufacture of viscose rayon. J Ind Hyg Toxicol 1939;21:141-51]. Masure experimentally showed that H(2)S is the causative agent of eye impacts in animals and men [Masure R. La Keratoconjunctivite des filatures de viscose; etude clinique and experiementale. Rev Belge Pathol 1950;20:297-341]. Michal upon microscopic examination of the rat's cornea, found nuclear pyknosis, edema and separation of cells in the eye following exposures for 3h at 36ppm H(2)S [Michal FV. Eye lesions caused by hydrogen sulfide. Cesk Ophthalmol 1950;6;5-8]. In 1975, in Alberta, irreversible eye damage and photophobia were experimentally produced in calves exposed to 20ppm H(2)S for 1week [Nordstrom GA. A study of calf response of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide gases. Thesis, University of Alberta, Department of Agricultural Engineering, Edmonton Alberta; 1975, 218 pp.]. Alberta Environmental Centre documented clinical irritation of the eye at 40ppm H(2)S in 6 hours in rats [Alberta Environmental Centre. Morphological observations in rats exposed for six hours to an atmosphere of 0, 56, or 420mg/m(3) hydrogen sulfide. AECV86-A1. Alberta Environmental Centre, Vegreville, Alberta; 1986b. 28 pp.]. In two sour gas blow-outs in Alberta, in the early 1980s, eye injury was documented in humans and animals at 0.5 ppm H(2)S. Community studies in the United States, Europe and New Zealand suggest that acute exposure to 25ppb H(2)S is the lowest concentration to irritate the eyes; with chronic exposure, serious eye effects are suggested. In contrast to the conclusion, all of the studies, except one, cited in the AHW Report indicate toxic effects on the eye below 100ppm H(2)S [Alberta Health and Wellness (AHW report). Health effects associated with short-term exposure to low levels of hydrogen sulfide (H(2)S): a technical review, Alberta Health and Wellness, October 2002, 81pp.]. In addition, the AHW Report (2002) mis-presented two studies as 'clinical studies', claiming they reported no evidence of eye effects in humans from 2 and 30 ppm H(2)S for 30-40 minutes [Alberta Health and Wellness (AHW report). Health effects associated with short-term exposure to low levels of hydrogen sulfide (H(2)S): a technical review, Alberta Health and Wellness, October 2002, 81pp.].

PMID:
16650463
DOI:
10.1016/j.scitotenv.2006.01.034
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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