What Are the Hazards of Sulfur?
Sulfur is a chemical element that is nonmetallic. It has a pale yellow color and has no odor. Sulfur in gaseous form combines with oxygen to form sulfur oxide. Sulfur is used to make fertilizer and various types of disinfectant. It is also used in medical laboratories to test skin disease. Sulfur is, however, a hazardous element that should be handled with care.
Sulfur in a gaseous state mixes with oxygen to form sulfur dioxide, which is hazardous. Inhalation of sulfur fumes causes irritation of the eyes, nose and respiratory track, which leads to headaches, dizziness and nausea. High levels of sulfur can burn the skin, and it can also cause pulmonary edema, a condition in which the lungs are filled up with fluids. Inhaling sulfur may also cause coughing, sneezing or labored breathing.
Fine dust of sulfur dispersed in the air is a potential hazard. When sulfur dust mixes with oxygen, it forms sulfur dioxide, which when ignited causes explosion. Dust suspended in air is readily ignited by fumes or static electricity and can cause destructive fires. Fires caused by sulfur are hard to put out because once they spread the presence of oxygen only serves to increase the fire.
Sulfur is stable and nonreactive when dry, but it is very reactive when it comes into contact with moisture. This makes it react readily with metals and many oxidizing and reducing agents when in the presence of moisture. In the presence of moisture and oxygen, it becomes sulfur dioxide, which forms an acidic and corrosive solution and thus causes corroding of metals.
When sulfur dust comes into contact with oxygen to become sulfur dioxide, it has serious environmental hazards. It affects the living organisms around the area. Sulfur causes vascular damage in veins of the brain, the heart and the kidney. Sulfur can also cause damage to the internal enzyme systems of animals.