Health effects from chronic low-level exposure to hydrogen sulfide

Arch Environ Health. Mar-Apr 2001;56(2):123-31. doi: 10.1080/00039890109604063.


The acute toxic effects of hydrogen sulfide have been known for decades. However, studies investigating the adverse health effects from chronic, low-level exposure to this chemical are limited. In this study, the authors compared symptoms of adverse health effects, reported by residents of two communities exposed mainly to chronic, low-levels of industrial sources of hydrogen sulfide, to health effects reported by residents in three reference communities in which there were no known industrial sources of hydrogen sulfide. Trained interviewers used a specially created, menu-driven computer questionnaire to conduct a multi-symptom health survey. The data-collection process and questions were essentially the same in the reference and exposed communities. The two exposed communities responded very similarly to questions about the major categories. When the authors compared responses of the exposed communities with those of the reference communities, 9 of the 12 symptom categories had iterated odds ratios greater than 3.0. The symptoms related to the central nervous system had the highest iterated odds ratio (i.e., 12.7; 95% confidence interval = 7.59, 22.09), followed by the respiratory category (odds ratio = 11.92; 95% confidence interval = 6.03, 25.72), and the blood category (odds ratio = 8.07; 95% confidence interval = 3.64, 21.18). Within the broader health categories, individual symptoms were also elevated significantly. This study, like all community-based studies, had several inherent limitations. Limitations, and the procedures the authors used to minimize their effects on the study outcomes, are discussed. The results of this study emphasize the need for further studies on the adverse health effects related to long-term, chronic exposure to hydrogen sulfide.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Air Pollutants / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Hawaii
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen Sulfide / adverse effects*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Texas


  • Air Pollutants
  • Hydrogen Sulfide