Hydrogen sulfide poisoning: clarification of some controversial issues

Am J Ind Med. 1999 Feb;35(2):192-5. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1097-0274(199902)35:2<192::aid-ajim11>3.0.co;2-c.


Background: Hydrogen sulfide is a toxic gas about which much has been written. We discuss here several issues we believe would benefit from further clarification.

Conclusions: We conclude that: 1) Certain neurotoxic effects of exposure are probably due to a direct toxic effect on the brain, while others are almost certainly a result of hypoxia secondary to H2S-induced respiratory insufficiency; 2) pulmonary edema is a common consequence of poisoning and there is suggestive evidence of hyperactive airway responses in some individuals following brief H2S-induced unconsciousness (knockdown); 3) criteria for acceptable community levels are very different than those governing occupational standards; 4) urinary thiosulfate determinations can be useful for monitoring occupational exposure; and 5) determination of sulfide ion concentrations in blood or major organs can be useful in corroborating a diagnosis of fatal H2S toxicity, but there are many pitfalls in collecting, storing, and analyzing tissue and fluid samples.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / poisoning*
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Bronchial Hyperreactivity / chemically induced
  • Environment
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen Sulfide / poisoning*
  • Hypoxia / chemically induced
  • Occupational Exposure
  • Pulmonary Edema / chemically induced
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / chemically induced
  • Sulfides / blood
  • Thiosulfates / urine
  • Unconsciousness / chemically induced


  • Air Pollutants
  • Sulfides
  • Thiosulfates
  • Hydrogen Sulfide