NASEMSO Warns Responders About H2S Suicides

"While there is no cause for widespread panic, symptoms can mimic carbon monoxide poisoning and EMS responders are encouraged to approach any dosed, suspicious vehicle with extreme caution," the association warns.

A warning notice posted Tuesday by the National Association of State EMS Officials warns emergency medical services responders about suicides by the use of inhaled hydrogen sulfide gas. The notice includes a link to a short Sarasota County Fire Department training presentation about this problem, which has been popping up on U.S. Internet sites for about a year.

"Several apparent suicide deaths related to mixing common household chemicals have been reported by local media in the past year. This alarming news follows on the heels of 517 suicide deaths reported in Japan throughout 2008 attributed to inhaling hydrogen sulfide gas created by mixing household detergents," the notice states. "In 2009, one incident in San Jose, CA resulted in a hazardous materials lockdown of the hospital, diversion of incoming ambulances, and decontamination of nearly 100 persons that included rescuers. Ad hoc internet sites are felt to be responsible for disseminating harmful information related to mixing chemical products for this purpose. While there is no cause for widespread panic, symptoms can mimic carbon monoxide poisoning and EMS responders are encouraged to approach any closed, suspicious vehicle with extreme caution."

The training presentation says a victim may tape a handwritten warning sign on the inside of the car's window to alert responders the gas is present, but not every scene includes such a sign, it says. Breaking into a closed vehicle and being greeted by warm air and a rotten eggs smell is a telltale sign, but responders should be careful because the smell may not be detected, it says.

NASEMSO's notice includes links to toxicity information about H2S gas from NIOSH and other sources.

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