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Sulfur dioxide sources, health risks

Thursday, November 02, 2017 by

Hell supposedly smells like sulfur. Practically all books on demons or other malevolent forces emphasize this: sulfur is Satan’s perfume. And while we can get all philosophical about it, this adds an interesting background to the next substance we will be talking about here.

Sulfur dioxide is a colorless toxic gas that is a known environmental pollutant. The gas reacts negatively with humidity and is the main contributor to acid rain (there is another Biblical reference here, if you’re quick enough to see it). The intensity in which sulfur dioxide reacts with air has caused several health groups to label it as a harmful particulate matter.

The gas is used as a sanitizing agent in many food containers. Many food manufacturers use the product in their drying process.

Harmful effects that can be caused by sulfur dioxide

The caress of sulfur dioxide is not a gentle one. Her touch is venomous and people often complain of having immediate difficulties in breathing. Sulfur dioxide’s effects on the human body are mostly respiratory in nature. Numerous medical journals have published claims that the gas can inflame the airways, contribute to circulatory collapse, and cause pulmonary edema. It can likewise affect the eyes, damaging the cornea and potentially causing blindness. Sulfur dioxide can also lead to heart failure.

Very young or old people are the most vulnerable to the negative effects of sulfur dioxide. The noxious gas is also harmful to those with a compromised immune system, those with chronic bronchitis, or people with asthma.

We mentioned earlier that some food manufacturers use sulfur dioxide. This is part of a preservation technique called sulfuring which lengthens the shelf life of certain dried fruit. Supposedly, the introduction of sulfites to the fruit preserves its vitamin A and C content. Scientists warn nevertheless that sulfur dioxide can destroy thiamin and can negatively affect the human body if taken in large amounts and at regular intervals.

Body systems harmed by sulfur dioxide

Sulfur dioxide harms the respiratory system. We are exposed to minute particles of the substance every day through the pollution that we breathe. The cumulative effect of sulfur dioxide can lead to lung failure or the exacerbation of existing breathing conditions.

The gas can also irritate the eyes. Volcanologists are required to wear safety goggles as they approach a volcano to protect their eyes.

Where to learn more


Sulfur dioxide is the noxious gas that comes out of volcanoes or the by-product of environmental pollution. Its distinctive smell burns the eyes and damages the airways, with many poets, authors, and those of an affected imagination to believe that the scent is what demons smell like.

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