An adult man (A) entered a pit to collect seepage at an industrial waste site in Japan. As he suddenly lost consciousness, three colleagues (B, C, D) entered the pit to rescue him. All of these men lost consciousness in the pit. Two workers (A and B) died soon after the accident, one worker (C) died 22 days after the accident, and one worker (D) survived. Since hydrogen sulfide gas was detected in the atmosphere of the pit, gas poisoning was suspected. Toxicological analyses of sulfide and thiosulfate, a metabolite of sulfide, in blood and urine of the victims were made using the extractive alkylation technique combined with gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS).
Sulfide was detected in the blood of A and B at levels of 0.13 and 0.11 mg/L, respectively, somewhat higher than in healthy persons. Thiosulfate was detected in whole blood of deceased victims A and B, in the plasma of deceased victim C, at concentrations of 10.53, 4.59, and 4.14 mg/L, respectively. These values were similar to those found in fatal cases of hydrogen sulfide poisoning. Thiosulfate was not detected in the plasma of survivor D. With respect to urine samples, thiosulfate was the highest in the non-acute death victim C (137.20 mg/L), followed by that in the survivor D (29.34 mg/L), and low (0.90 mg/L) and not detected in the acute death victims, A and B, respectively.
Based on these results, all four patients were victims of hydrogen sulfide poisoning. The concentrations of thiosulfate in blood and urine were more useful than that for sulfide for determining hydrogen sulfide poisoning. Thiosulfate in urine was the only indicator of hydrogen sulfide poisoning in the non-fatal victim.