Air Monitoring for Hydrogen Sulfide

While there are no regulatory exposure limits outside of the workplace for hydrogen sulfide (H2S), there are exposure guidelines to which our monitoring data will be compared. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) has established an acute Minimal Risk Level (MRL) for H2S. A MRL is an estimate of the daily human exposure to a hazardous substance that is likely to be without appreciable risk of adverse health effects over a specified duration of exposure.1 

The Acute MRL for continuous exposure from 1 day to 14 days is 0.07 parts per million (ppm), which is equal to 70 parts per billion (ppb). The daily monitoring reports will show one day (24 hour) time-weighted averages in parts per billion (ppb). [The first four reports were reported in ppm, but have been re-published in ppb.]

Part per billion (ppb) equivalents are shown on this page because other data related to this investigation has been expressed in these units. It is critical that the units of measurement between monitoring results and the exposure guidelines match. For example, both should be in either parts per million (ppm) or parts per billion (ppb).  It is easy to convert one to the other. 1 ppm = 1000 ppb, so to go from ppm to ppb, multiply by 1000; and to go from ppb to ppm, divide by 1000.

It is important to understand units of measurement when looking at monitoring results. A part per billion (ppb) is the equivalent of a penny in a ten million dollars. See Table 1. Below for a perspective. 

Hydrogen Sulfide Units of Measurement
Table 1

The instruments being used can measure down to 1 part per billion (ppb) up to 10 parts per million (ppm). 

The odor threshold range for hydrogen sulfide is 0.0005 to 0.3 ppm (0.5 to 300 ppb). 

Additional exposure guidelines: Acute Exposure Guideline Levels (AEGLs) were developed by the National Advisory Committee for Acute Exposure Guideline Levels for Hazardous Substances. These levels represent exposure limits for the general public for periods of time ranging from 10 minutes to 8 hours. Three levels – AEGL-1, AEGL-2 and AEGL-3 are established for each of five exposure time periods shown in the table below. Values are shown for concentration in both ppm and ppb. 

Hydrogen Sulfide2

Classification 10 min 30 min 1 hour 4 hour 8 hour
AEGL-1 (Nondisabling) 0.75 ppm
750 ppb
0.60 ppm
600 ppb
0.51 ppm
510 ppb
0.36 ppm
360 ppb
0.33 ppm
330 ppb
AEGL-2 (Disabling) 41 ppm
41000 ppb
32 ppm
32000 ppb
27 ppm
27000 ppb
20 ppm
20000 ppb
17 ppm
17000 ppb
AEGL-3 76 ppm
76000 ppb
59 ppm
59000 ppb
50 ppm
50000 ppb
37 ppm
37000 ppb
31 ppm
31000 ppb

1ATSDR Toxicological Profile on Hydrogen Sulfide: https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/ToxProfiles/tp114-a.pdf 
2AEGL for Hydrogen Sulfide: https://www.epa.gov/aegl/hydrogen-sulfide-results-aegl-program

How do I Interpret the Daily Reports?

At the top of each daily report you will find the date and the 24-hour time period for each report (midnight to midnight). 

New Indy - Air Monitoring Table Example


Notes about the monitoring period will be put at the top of the page. For example if a monitor failed (could be a battery issue or an issue with a sensor) or if an error was made in a report, this section will contain an explanation of the correction. 

A map with locations of the facility as well as monitor locations is also part of each report. There will be a description of the prevailing wind direction during the monitoring period just before the charts. 

Monitors take a reading every 30 seconds - that is the Number of Readings. A detect is defined as a measurable concentration during one of those 30 second readings.  There are columns in the report for number of readings and number of detections. 

The graph below shows a peak around 1:30 AM at ~50 parts per billion.  The 30-minute average level at which health effects are expected is 600 ppb (0.6 ppm) (See AEGL-1 description on the monitoring landing page.)  The 70-ppb red line is not a health standard but is a level that indicates further investigatory actions are warranted. The peak concentration recorded about 7PM exceeded the level of the 70 ppb Standard, but for less than an hour. 

New Indy - Air Monitoring Graph Example


The red line is the 24-hour exposure guideline to which monitoring results are compared.  Exposure guidelines have two components, concentration AND time. See the Acute Exposure Guideline table on the air monitoring page for exposure guidelines over shorter time periods. 

While we have seen brief periods of time with concentrations above the red line at several locations, we have not come close to exceeding the guideline over the time period used for comparison. The 70 ppb is an acute Minimum Risk Level (MRL) set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a level that warrants additional investigation should it be exceeded.

Wind Forecast - November 30, 2022

High pressure will move off the East coast tonight, and behind it a cold front will move through the region on Wednesday. Although the front will be weakening, sufficient moisture and lift ahead of the front will allow for widespread rain through Wednesday morning. Otherwise, expect cloudy skies to begin clearing Wednesday afternoon, with near average high temperatures.

Winds tonight will generally be light and variable, with any areas of odor primarily affecting communities immediately surrounding the facility through sunrise on Wednesday. After sunrise, winds will pick up out of the south and southwest at 10-15 mph. Behind the cold front, winds will veer to be out of the west and northwest for the late afternoon and evening hours. Thus, any areas of odor on Wednesday will affect communities to the north and northeast of the facility during the morning and early afternoon, then communities to the east and southeast of the facility through evening.

DHEC Daily Reports

EPA Reports