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Disease from Sulphuretted Hydrogen



In some of the chemical manufactories, and, occasionally, in laboratories, the operatives are exposed, at times, to the action of sulphuretted hydrogen gas, which is evolved in certain processes of chemical decomposition. Workmen in sewers and cesspools are also exposed to the influence of this gas, which is there evolved from the organic decomposing matter.

The gas is an active poison, and death is an occasional result from inhaling it. Diffused in breathing air in the proportion of 1.714 per cent. it is immediately fatal; and in the proportion of 0.205 per cent. it produces insensibility, with feebleness of respi ration and muscular tremors. Even when diffused in the minute proportion of 0.056 per cent., it causes, when inhaled, distressed breathing, nausea, giddiness, rapid pulse, heat of the surface of the body followed by coldness, and after symptoms like those of low continued fever.

These primary effects of the gas, though severe when first ex perienced, pass away after a time, owing to the tolerance for it which seems generally to be set up. Hence in the alkali districts, where the gas is constantly being evolved in most objectionable quantities from the alkali heaps, and where it quickly discolors fresh animal substances exposed to the air, it appears to affect but little the health of the persons who live in the districts. I de voted some weeks to inquiry on this particular point in the alkali districts, and though at first I suffered severely myself, and was absolutely unable to live in some atmospheres in which the gas was present, I found that those who were accustomed to them breathed them with impunity, and I failed to trace either amongst the young, middle-aged, or old any special form of disease to which I could give a name as dependent upon the action of the gas upon the organism. A similar inquiry, having the same ob ject, amongst persons engaged in the sewers led to similar nega tive results, although I received confirmation of a fact, noticed by other writers, of an occasional accident of actual poisoning from the respiration of an overwhelming dose.

gas, alkali and exposed