Journal article Open Access

Acute hydrogen sulfide poisoning in a dairy farmer

Gerasimon, Gregg; Bennett, Steven; Musser, Jeffrey; Rinard, John

Introduction. Hydrogen sulfide is a lipid-soluble gas produced in occupational settings and from decaying organic matter. We present a 36-year-old man who developed acute respiratory arrest from hydrogen sulfide poisoning while performing work as a dairy farmer. Case report. The subject entered a poorly ventilated tank containing degrading eggs and, within seconds, collapsed. Coworkers were able to extract him within minutes but he was apneic. He was intubated by emergency medical services and subsequently managed with supportive care in the intensive care unit. Upon admission, a powerful rotten egg scent was noted and a hydrogen sulfide poisoning was suspected. Serum analysis for the presence of thiosulfate confirmed the diagnosis. Nitrite therapy was not administered as the subject arrived outside of the therapeutic window of effectiveness and showed evidence of excellent oxygenation. His examinations following arrival were consistent with an anoxic brain injury which slowly improved several months after the incident with intensive neuro-rehabilitation. Discussion. Hydrogen sulfide is a mitochondrial toxin and inhibits cytochrome-aa3 and prevents cellular aerobic metabolism. Therapies for toxic exposures include removal from the contaminated environment, ventilation with 100% oxygen, and nitrite therapy if administered immediately after exposure. Hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) therapy has anecdotal support and remains controversial. Conclusion. Hydrogen sulfide is a significant occupational health hazard. Education, personal protective equipment, and early treatment are important in improving outcomes.

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