Sulfur hexafluoride (SF6): global environmental effects and toxic byproduct formation

J Air Waste Manag Assoc. 2000 Jan;50(1):137-41. doi: 10.1080/10473289.2000.10463996.


This work provides information concerning possible global environmental implications and personnel safety aspects that should be considered during the commercial uses of sulfur hexafluoride (SF6). SF6 is an anthropogenically produced compound, mainly used as a gaseous dielectric in gas insulated switchgear power installations. It is a potent greenhouse gas with a high global warming potential, and its concentration in the earth atmosphere is rapidly increasing. During its working cycle, SF6 decomposes under electrical stress, forming toxic byproducts that are a health threat for working personnel in the event of exposure. Several precautions are recommended to avoid personnel exposure to toxic byproducts: oxyfluoride levels or other byproduct concentrations in the operating gas matrix should be traced to predetermine the overall gas toxicity; contaminants should be systematically considered during maintenance, chamber evacuation and system opening process; small SF6 quantities leaking into air or stagnated pollutant concentrations in the operating field should be analyzed and compared to the threshold limit values and permissible exposure levels. New system design rules (i.e., hermetically sealed gas compartments, gas recycling or disposal in the field area) and different handling policies--both during maintenance and final disposal--now should be considered globally to provide for environmental and personnel safety.

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants, Occupational / adverse effects*
  • Air Pollutants, Occupational / toxicity
  • Greenhouse Effect
  • Humans
  • Sulfur Hexafluoride / adverse effects*
  • Sulfur Hexafluoride / chemistry
  • Sulfur Hexafluoride / toxicity


  • Air Pollutants, Occupational
  • Sulfur Hexafluoride