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October 2, 1981

Hydrogen Sulfide Poisoning in a Hospital Setting

JAMA. 1981;246(14):1588-1589. doi:10.1001/jama.1981.03320140076038

TOXICITY from hydrogen sulfide (H2S) has been experienced in industries involving petroleum refining, manufacturing of heavy water, tanning, vulcanization of rubber, manufacturing of rayon, and also in the fishing and refuse industries.1,2 An episode of H2S poisoning occurred in an acute-care hospital, where H2S gas resulted from the reaction of a strong acid in an industrial cleaner with plaster of paris sludge in a cast room drain.

Report of a Case  A previously healthy 45-year-old man set out to clean the cast room drain trap of a community hospital with 90% sulfuric acid (H2SO4) solution. Previous efforts to clean the drain had been limited to mechanical means (snaking) because of the high sludge content. As the H2SO4 solution was poured into the drain in a small basement cubicle, noxious fumes spread through the hospital and the workman