From Iceland — Suspicion Of Sulfur Compounds Poisoning In Eskifjörður

Suspicion Of Sulfur Compounds Poisoning In Eskifjörður

Published May 27, 2022

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It is suspected that sulfur compounds have caused symptoms of poisoning in five workers of the blue whiting factory in Eskifjörður last week, Austurfrétt reports. Oxygen deficiency has been ruled out, but research is continuing.

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Five Tandraberg employees were taken to hospital in Reykjavík a week ago after experiencing eye burning, rashes and itching a few hours after arriving in Eskifjörður from sea. The patients have already been released from the hospital. 

It is not yet clear what caused the symptoms, but the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is collecting data for the investigation. It is still too early to say which compounds caused the symptoms.

It is known that carbon dioxide or even carbon monoxide can be found in blue whiting, especially if it is placed in a confined space such as a ship. Therefore, oxygen levels have to be measured continuously.

Guðmundur Mar Magnússon, an expert in the safety and technical department of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, says that the measurements were correct and that there was no lack of oxygen.

The gases that poisoned the workers were probably gases that formed in the fish. It is suspected that these were sulfur compounds, hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide, which can cause such symptoms in humans. Staying in a room with a low concentration of the substances does not have to cause symptoms immediately, but they, especially sulfur dioxide, can settle in work clothes and form an acid that people will be exposed to when they take off their clothes.

Immediately the day after the incident, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration sent guidelines to transporting companies reminding them of the dangers of the job and how to avoid them. “Measurements of harmful gases can give contradictory results, as the substances can be released suddenly when the raw material is moved. In parallel with the oxygen measurement, it is, therefore, necessary to ensure good ventilation while people work in these conditions,” say the guidelines.

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