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Sulfur Dioxide & Exposure Concerns

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Published on Jul 16, 2015

Sulfur dioxide (SO2) is one of a group of highly reactive gasses known as oxides of sulfur. It is a colorless gas with a pungent and suffocating odor. It is a common air pollutant found in many parts of the world.

Much of the sulfur dioxide in the air comes from the burning of coal and oil at electric power plants. Other sources of sulfur dioxide come from industrial facilities that use coal or oil, petroleum refineries, cement manufacturing, metal mining and processing, paper pulp manufacturing and copper smelting. Trains, large ships and some diesel equipment may burn high sulfur fuels which also contributes to sulfur dioxide in the air.

Sulfur dioxide has also been used as a food preservative and for food processing; as a disinfectant; for bleaching flour, fruit, grain, wood pulp, wool, textile fibers, wicker, gelatin and glue; and for making other chemicals. It is also used for wastewater treatment.

Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides can react with precipitation, oxygen and other substances in the atmosphere to form acid rain. People can be exposed to sulfur dioxide outdoors by breathing polluted air. This is more likely to occur in the summer, when the sun and hot temperatures react with pollution to form smog. Natural pollution sources, such as plant decay and volcanoes can also expose people to this gas. People who live near or work in facilities that utilize sulfur dioxide or produce it as a by-product may also be exposed.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “Breathing sulfur dioxide can irritate the nose, throat, and lungs, and cause coughing and shortness of breath. Short-term exposure to sulfur dioxide can cause stomach pain, menstrual disorders, watery eyes, inhibition of thyroid function, loss of smell, headache, nausea, vomiting, fever, convulsions, and dizziness.” They also report, “Short-term exposure to high levels of sulfur dioxide in the air can be life-threatening by causing breathing difficulties and obstructing airways, especially for people with lung disease. Long-term exposure to persistent levels of sulfur dioxide can cause chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and respiratory illness. It can also aggravate existing heart disease.”

These are just a few things to know about sulfur dioxide, exposure risks and potential health concerns. To learn more about this or other indoor and outdoor air quality, health and safety, occupational or environmental issues, please visit the websites shown below.

Clark Seif Clark http://www.csceng.com
EMSL Analytical, Inc. http://www.emsl.com
Indoor Environmental Consultants, Inc. http://www.iecinc.net
LA Testing http://www.latesting.com
Zimmetry Environmental http://www.zimmetry.com
Healthy Indoors Magazine http://www.iaq.net
Hudson Douglas Public Adjusters http://HudsonDouglasPublicAdjusters.com

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