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Human exposure to hydrogen sulphide concentrations near wastewater treatment plants

Godoi, AFL and Grasel, AM and Polezer, G and Brown, A and Potgieter, SS and Scremim, D and Godoi, RHM and Yamamoto, C (2017) Human exposure to hydrogen sulphide concentrations near wastewater treatment plants. Science of the Total Environment, 610. pp. 583-590. ISSN 0048-9697

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Abstract

The hydrogen sulphide (H2S) levels from wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) in Curitiba, Brazil have been quantified for the first time. H2S generated by anaerobic decomposition of organic matter in WWTPs is a cause for concern because it is an air pollutant, which can cause eye and respiratory irritation, headaches, and nausea. Considering the requirement for WWTPs in all communities, it is necessary to assess the concentrations and effects of gases such as H2S on populations living and/or working near WWTPs. The primary objective of this study was to evaluate the indoor and outdoor concentration of H2S in the neighbourhood of two WWTPs located in Curitiba, as well as its human health impacts. Between August 2013 and March 2014 eight sampling campaigns were performed using passive samplers and the analyses were carried out by spectrophotometry, presenting mean concentrations ranging from 0.14 to 32 μg m− 3. Eleven points at WWTP-A reported H2S average concentrations above the WHO recommendation of 10 μg m− 3, and 15 points above the US EPA guideline of 2 μg m− 3. At WWTP-B the H2S concentration was above US EPA guideline at all the sampling points. The I/O ratio on the different sampling sites showed accumulation of indoor H2S in some instances and result in exacerbating the exposure of the residents. The highest H2S concentrations were recorded during the summer in houses located closest to the sewage treatment stations, and towards the main wind direction, showing the importance of these factors when planning a WWTP. Lifetime risk assessments of hydrogen sulphide exposure showed a significant non-carcinogenic adverse health risk for local residents and workers, especially those close to anaerobic WWTPs. The data indicated that WWTPs operated under these conditions should be recognized as a significant air pollution source, putting local populations at risk.

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