Effects of Long-term Exposure to Hydrogen Sulfide on Human Red Blood Cells

A Saeedi, A Najibi, A Mohammadi-Bardbori


Background: Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) exhibits both physiological and toxicological roles in the biological systems. Acute exposure to high levels of H2S is life threatening while long-term exposure to ambient levels of H2S elicits human health effects.

Objective: To study the harmful effects of long-term exposure to low levels of H2S on human blood cells.

Methods: 110 adult workers from Iran who were occupationally exposed to 0–90 ppb H2S for 1–30 years were studied. The participants aged between 18 and 60 years and were exposed directly or indirectly to sulfur compounds (exposed group). The origin of H2S was natural gas processing plants. A control group consisting of 110 males who were not in contact with H2S was also studied. For all participants, hematological profile including total hemoglobin and red blood cell count and sulfhemoglobin, methemoglobin levels were measured.

Results: Among all parameters evaluated in this study the mean methemoglobin and sulfhemoglobin levels were significantly higher among workers who were exposed to sulfur compounds than the control group. Major differences throughout the study period for sulfhemoglobinemia among exposed groups were observed.

Conclusion: Long-term exposure to even low levels of H2S in workplaces may have potential harmful effects on human health.


Hydrogen sulfide; Sulfhemoglobin; Methemoglobin; Hemoglobins; Erythrocyte count

doi: 10.15171/ijoem.2015.482

 pISSN: 2008-6520
 eISSN: 2008-6814

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