The unpleasant stench of rotten eggs... it's undeniable. The toxic compound that gives the smell of rotten eggs is hydrogen sulfide. When you smell this odor in your home, it's highly unlikely that you have rotten eggs. The odor is more likely coming from your gas line, sewer line, drainage system or water supply. It's important to find the source, because hydrogen sulfide can cause serious health problems. Here's what you need to know about hydrogen sulfide and how to find the source of it in your home.
Where Hydrogen Sulfide Comes From
Hydrogen sulfide comes from the breaking down of human waste, food and other organic matter by bacteria. Hydrogen sulfide is a gas found in sewer systems and septic tanks because they contain human waste and bacteria. Organic matter and bacteria in your water system can cause hydrogen sulfide to form. Hydrogen sulfide is a component of natural gas; however, some gas companies will add hydrogen sulfide so gas leaks are easier to recognize.
Hydrogen Sulfide Health Risks
Hydrogen sulfide can cause health implications that may become very serious. It is a chemical asphyxiant, which means it will make it difficult for your body to take oxygen in. This lack of oxygen can cause respiratory distress, convulsions, coma and death in extreme cases (50-200 ppm). Other symptoms may include: eye irritation, nausea, vomiting, headaches and dizziness.
Many people will go outside for fresh air when they smell hydrogen sulfide because the odor can be overwhelming. You may be wondering how anyone can stand the high quantities it takes to become extremely sick from smelling hydrogen sulfide. It's because hydrogen sulfide at levels over 100 ppm can paralyze the nerves in your nasal passages. This may cause you to lose your sense of smell altogether.
How to Identify the Source In Your Home
There are several areas in your home where hydrogen sulfide may be found. You'll need to be careful when you troubleshoot the source. As soon as you start feeling symptoms, leave the house immediately to get some fresh air.
Natural gas: Given the explosive risks of gas leaks, don't troubleshoot a potential gas leak yourself. Evacuate your home and call the gas company. Tell the representative that you smell rotten eggs in your home and are concerned that you may have a gas leak. That way, they will send a technician out right away. In the meantime, keep everyone out of the house.
Sewage: Start in a bathroom and flush the toilet. If the odor gets stronger when the water goes down the toilet drain, the problem is likely in your drainage system or septic tank. Check the seal of the toilet and the DWV (drain, waste, vent) stack on your roof.
Drains: Run water in your sink drains. Try to determine if the odor comes from the drain or the water. If it comes from the drain, there could be food and bacteria trapped in it. Call a plumber to clear out the drain, or use a heavy-duty clog remover.
Water: If the odor seems to come from the water, there may be organic matter and bacteria in your water supply, aerators, or in your water heater. A plumber can troubleshoot the source of hydrogen sulfide and make necessary repairs. Have your water tested for bacteria after the organic matter has been removed from your water supply. If your water supply is found to have harmful bacteria, you may need to have your water treated by a company like Valley Pump Inc.
Hydrogen sulfide is the toxic compound that gives rotten eggs, natural gas, sewage and water a horrible odor. If you have this odor in your home, find the source and make repairs before someone in your home gets sick.