The fracking boom has spread to several locations in the United States, including southeast Texas and areas of Louisiana. Any company drilling for oil, natural gas, or other chemicals, especially if they are doing so near salt domes in Louisiana, is at risk of creating and releasing clouds of hydrogen sulfide, a toxic gas that can injure both workers and nearby residents.
Workers at drilling rigs and fields are most at risk because of their daily proximity to storage tanks and wells, but residents can be affected if an accident onsite releases clouds of gas. If you think you have been injured by or you are constantly being exposed to hydrogen sulfide, you may need to see a lawyer in addition to a doctor.
What Is Hydrogen Sulfide, and What Does It Do?
Hydrogen sulfide is a byproduct of gas and oil drilling. It’s a heavy gas, so it tends to fall toward the ground if not carried away by the wind. If gas or oil is contained in a manmade structure like a tank, and the structure leaks, the gas can spread quickly. If the gas is in a well, the well can blow out, spewing in geysers along with water. The gas can contribute to explosion risks.
Very small amounts of the gas make an area smell like rotten eggs — that unmistakable sewer smell. As the amount of gas increases, people can suffer headaches, respiratory distress, eye irritation and pain, a feeling of exhaustion, and even convulsions and lapsing into a coma. It can be fatal. What’s worse is that constant exposure to the gas eventually ruins the sense of smell, so people can’t detect the gas until they start feeling sick.
How Fracking and Drilling Create Hydrogen Sulfide
Hydrogen sulfide already exists in wells and in layers of gas and oil that sit around underground salt domes. If salt domes collapse, wells blow out, tanks leak, or some other accident happens to disturb the gas and create a path out of its enclosure, the gas will come out quickly. Oil and gas companies are legally allowed to release a small amount of hydrogen sulfide naturally, but the combination of hydrogen sulfide with other gases is often overwhelming for anyone in the area.
Why Workers and Residents Need to Take Action
Good oil and gas companies follow Occupational Health and Safety Administration regulations for monitoring releases and providing safety training and equipment to workers. However, residents in the area are often left to their own devices, and not-so-good companies may cut safety corners. Hydrogen sulfide exposure effects can be cumulative, leading to extensive health damage.
If you have been exposed to hydrogen sulfide, either on the job or because your home is near a drilling site, speak with a qualified attorney. You deserve to be healthy and to receive financial help with medical costs.