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H2S Gas Poisoning Leaves 2 Dead in Odessa, Texas


Poisonous H2S (hydrogen sulfide) gas has been blamed for the tragic deaths of a Texas oilfield worker and his wife at an Ector County pump house late last month.

Aghorn Energy Asked Worker to Check Pump House

The 44-year-old father of three received a call from Aghorn Energy shortly after 10:00 p.m. on October 23rd, asking that he check on a pump house located at 2216 W. 49th on the northwest side of Odessa.

His wife, 37, drove to the pump house sometime later, worried that her husband hadn’t returned home. Two of their children, ages 9 and 6, accompanied her.

According to the Ector County Sheriff’s Department, she got out of her car upon arriving at the pump house, but was overcome by H2S gas just outside the door.

2 Children Treated for Mild H2S Exposure

The two were discovered after Aghorn Energy personnel alerted law enforcement that they hadn’t received a status report from the employee. Deputies and EMS apparently noticed the H2S gas when they arrived at the pump house.

The couple’s two children were found in the car, away from the building, and only experienced mild exposure. EMS decontaminated both at the scene, then transferred them to a local hospital where they were reunited with their grandparents.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board is now investigating the incident.

Consequences of H2S Gas Poisoning

Colorless and highly flammable, H2S gas is commonly found during drilling and production of crude oil and natural gas. Heavier than air, the gas travels along the ground and may collect in low-lying areas such as basements and sewer lines.

Also known as “sour gas,” H2S does have a distinct “rotten-egg” odor at low concentrations; however, constant exposure to low levels can significantly reduce an individual’s ability to smell the gas. At high concentrations, the ability to smell H2S gas can be lost instantaneously.

H2S gas poisoning is one of the leading causes of sudden death in the workplace. Exposure to concentrations greater that 500 ppm can lead to collapse and unconsciousness. While a single breath at 1,000 ppm will result in the immediate loss of consciousness, cardiac arrest and death, loss of consciousness and death have also occurred after prolonged exposure to concentrations of 50 ppm.

Long-term exposure to low levels of H2S gas has been linked to headache, skin problems respiratory and mucous membrane irritation, respiratory soft tissue damage and degeneration, confusion, impairment of verbal recall, memory loss, and prolonged reaction time.

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