Hydrogen sulfide gas and foaming continue to be a serious issue in and around barns. But don't take my word for it. Hear Leon Sheet tell about what happened to him and why you need to take this issue seriously. Your safety is important to us and we are always humbled to hear our messages makes a difference. Hear Kris Kohl talk about his recent experience when a farmer told him about remembering hearing about hydrogen sulfide in training and how to react. We all on the manure team here at Iowa State feel the same way, and hope you take the time to educate yourself about ways to keep yourself safe and check out some of the resources below for altering you of H2S dangers.
Hydrogen sulfide is especially concerning when agitating or pumping the manure. As the amount of distiller’s grains in feed rations has increased, so has the amount of sulfur excreted by the animal. Over the past ten years, sulfur concentrations in swine manure have increased from 3 pounds per 1000 gallons to 9 pounds per 1000 gallons. When manure is agitated, hydrogen sulfide gas can be quickly released. Exposure to low concentrations of the gas for even a short period of time can cause health issues and at high enough concentrations can cause near instant death. A list of symptoms to different hydrogen sulfide exposures is provided in Table 1.
If you work around manure, monitors can be purchased to help keep you and your employees safe. A monitor, which is small enough to wear, ranges in cost from $99-$800 and will alert you if the situation is dangerous. This year as part of the manure applicators program participants were asked if they currently use any type of hydrogen sulfide monitoring equipment. On the commercial applicators survey, 5 percent of workers reported using a hydrogen sulfide monitor compared to 1 percent of confinement applicators survey. When asked about the likelihood of purchasing a monitor, 25 percent of commercial applicators and 31 percent of confinement applicators said it was likely that they would purchase a monitor (for a summary of this information see Figures 1 a and b below).
There are numerous options available for monitoring hydrogen sulfide levels when working with manure. Below are links to four meters for you to take a look at and some pictures of what they look like.
- Honeywell GasAlertMax XT II
- BW Honeywell GasAlert Clip Extreme GA24XT-H
- BW Honeywell GasAlert Micro Clip XL 4-Gas Monitor
- Draeger Pac 3500 H2S Monitor
- RAE Systems ToxiRAE II
In addition to considering purchasing a monitor, other practices to follow when agitating or pumping manure include:
- Check to ensure all ventilation fans are working prior to pumping and that air inlets are open
- Place a tarp over pump-out to help protect the applicator
- Communicate with farmer and crew and never enter a barn during agitation and pumping
- Listen for pig distress
- Always be aware and alert as dangerous situations can develop quickly.