Hydrogen sulfide is a chemical compound with H2S as its chemical formula. The gas is colorless with the repellant odor of rotten eggs. It is highly corrosive, flammable and poisonous gas. The hydrogen sulfide gas is mainly used in industrial areas. The deliberate mixture of household chemicals to form hydrogen sulfide are extensively used as means of suicide and the cases pose a threat for the first responders. The emergency physicians need to be aware of the management of hydrogen sulfide since rapid identification and treatment is critical for recovery.
Physical Properties of H2S
The structure of Hydrogen sulfide is similar to that of water.
However, sulfur is not as electronegative as oxygen as such that hydrogen sulfide is not as polar as water. Due to this, comparatively weak intermolecular forces exist in H2S and the boiling points and melting points are way lower than in water.
The boiling points of water and hydrogen sulfide are 100oC and -60oC respectively.
Chemical Properties of Hydrogen Sulphide
- Hydrogen sulfide is heavier than air by a minute margin, a mixture of air and H2S can lead to an explosion. Oxygen and Hydrogen sulfide catch fire with a blue flame to produce sulfur dioxide (SO2) and water. Basically, hydrogen sulfide serves as a reducing agent and mostly in the presence of the base that makes SH–.
- In the presence of catalysts or at higher temperatures, sulfur dioxide reacts with hydrogen sulfide to produce water and elemental sulfur. This reaction is an essential industrial method to dispose of hydrogen sulfide, exploited in the Claus process.
Hydrogen sulfide is highly explosive and flammable gas and is capable of causing life-threatening conditions if handled without care. Moreover, hydrogen sulfide gas burns readily and forms other toxic gases and vapors like sulfur dioxide.
Apart from exposure to hydrogen sulfide, exposure to fluid hydrogen sulfide can lead to frostbite or “blue skin”.