The Formation, Uses, and Health Implications of Sulfur
TheFormation, Uses, and Health Implications of Sulfur
Sulfuris a substance that reacts and forms compounds with almost allchemical elements. At room temperature, it is a yellow crystal-likerock-hard compound that is insoluble in water. It is abundant, butthe largest stocks exist in the subsurface, particularly in cratersand cracks linked with vaporizing minerals. The reduction of sulfatesthrough biological processes results in sulfur (Nadeau 168). Althoughit is plentiful and found throughout the world, it is seldom tounearth it in a pure, uncombined form at the surface. The element isa significant component of numerous subsurface, atmospheric, andliquefied gases as well as fundamental in all living organisms. Sincesulfur is a common substance, it is imperative to highlight itsdiscovery, utilization, health effects, and its form in thevolcanoes.
TheDiscovery of Sulfur
Sulfuris an ancient element that is commonly alluded to in the Bible asbrimstone. The discovery of sulfur dates to prehistoric times wherepeople extracted it from pyrite, especially in China to use it inmedicine. In the modern times, people use it extensively in theproduction of insecticides, fertilizer, and sulfuric acid. Theearliest sediments existed in Sicily, but at this period scientiststhought that sulfur was an element until Antoine Lavoisier, a Frenchchemist proved that it was an element. Later, scientists discoveredtraces of sulfur in Texas and Louisiana. The chemical element isyellow in color, with atomic number 16. At a normal room temperatureof 20 degrees Celsius, sulfur is always in solid form, which isyellow crystalline (Dilleset al. 243).Despite being insoluble in water, this element can adapt to mostconditions, hence versatile in forming compounds. When it blends withmost elements, sulfur reacts and tends to form compounds. However,sulfur does not form several compounds such as gold, nitrogen,iodine, tellurium, iridium, platinum, and inert gases. It is asignificant component of crucial minerals like sulfate and sulfide.
Sulfuris available in plenty measure across the world. In meteorites, thesubstance develops after the bonding of helium and silicon (Nadeau168). Sulfur exists in massive stars, earth, and meteorites althoughin different forms. On earth, one can mostly find it in volcanicregions and hot springs around the world, particularly in Japan,Indonesia, and Chile. The element is present in dissolved ions ofmost water surfaces. It is a common component of dissolved,subsurface, and atmospheric gases. One can find sulfur in placeswhere fossil fuels and organic molecules are in abundant (Leng et al.562). In commercial industries, firms recover the element from shaftssunk into salt grounds or gas fields through the Frasch method. Theelement is highly flammable and burns with a bluish flame, an aspectthat explains why one can discover it in fossil fuel. Any compoundcontaining sulfur produce strong and undesirable odor. The unpleasantsmell of matches, rotten eggs, and garlic among other substances isas result of content of sulfur (Dilleset al. 249).Hot volcanic gases are rich in sulfur and its deposits are evident asyellowish crystals when the gases cool after escaping the vent. Whensulfur burns, it produces sulfur dioxide, which is extremelypoisonous gas. In its natural form, sulfur is a vital element in bothplants and animals. It is also a crucial component in organicmolecules of fossil fuels.
Today’sUse of Sulfur
Theelement is mostly significant in industrial processes, as one of thekey components of manufactured products. The common application ofsulfur is in the vulcanization of rubber. Sulfur helps in convertingnatural rubber and other polymers into durable materials (Zahnle andCatling 39). The element facilitates the heating process, where thenatural rubber converts to a final product that can withstand extremeweather conditions. The process improves the elasticity of rubberproducts, hence facilitating adaptation to various conditions.Manufacturing of automotive tires is one of the industrial processesthat require use of sulfur.
Sulfuricacid is most primary industrial chemical manufactured using sulfur.The chemical aids in making phosphoric acids, which aids in makingfertilizers that people use in agricultural activities. In addition,sulfur is essential component of natural gas, which makes it easierto detect the leakage due to its smell. Manufacturers of commonpesticides and agricultural products such as herbicides also usesulfur in making these products. Sulfur dioxide is a product used inpreserving food stuffs. It preserves dried figs, apricots, and otherfruits due to its antimicrobial properties. It maintains thedesirable appearance of the fruits and prevents them from rotting. Inthis case, fruits exporters use the substance as preservative.
TheHealth Effects of Sulfur
Exposureto sulfur is one of the major occupational health concerns for thosepeople who work in manufacturing industries. People should handlecompounds of sulfur, for example, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide,and carbon disulfide carefully since they can easily cause breathingparalysis and death. Furthermore, sulfur dioxide is a primaryconstituent of atmospheric air effluence. The exposure to sulfuricdioxide through inhalation has serious health consequences. Sulfurreacts with moist mucous to form sulfurous acid, which causes severeirritation (Anderson, Delclos, and Rao 41). Asthmatic people are at ahigher risk of airway resistance when exposed to sulfur dioxide,especially during physical exercise. Healthy adults are also at riskof airway resistance, excessive sneezing and coughing, andbronchospasm, especially when there is no respiratory protection.Exposure to sulfur for longer period is likely to cause breathingchallenges and subsequent death due to obstruction of airway.
Directcontact with liquid sulfur is likely to damage cornea and cause skininjury. Sulfur preservatives are dangerous to people with asthma. Theexposure to this risk occurs after consuming food with highconcentration of sulfur preservative. Underground explosion of sulfurduring mining is one of the activities that expose people to risks(Anderson et al. 42). If the element leaks in the subsurface, it cancause itching, burning, and breathing problems in a person.Respiratory damage is the chief effect of exposure to sulfur dioxide,if one inhales the gas.
Pullingof Sulfur in Volcanoes
Volcanoesemit sulfur continuously without the knowledge of people who visitthose sites. The daily emission is smaller compared to a bigeruption, as element that contributes to less concern. This meansthat the volcanoes will continue to leak fumes of sulfur, which willcause respiratory problems, irritation, itching, and skin damage. Thecumulative emissions in all volcanoes can have significant healtheffects on people. It is important to note that volcanoes emit moregases on normal circumstances than during the eruption (Pomerantz etal. 9). Such aspect exposes people to sulfur inhalation, hence leadto health deterioration. People going to volcanoes have more exposureto sulfur than those who do not visit such places. They inhale sulfurin gaseous form as the volcano emits it to the atmosphere. In thiscase, exposure to volcanic breathing increases the sulfur inhalationhence dangers of its health effect.
Individualswho go to mines and volcanic areas to harvest sulfur are exposed totoxic fumes. Furthermore, it is imperative to note that the substanceusually exists in cracks and rocky places hence, they encounterslippery as well as rock-strewn paths, which can cause injuries.Once, near the exhausts, the craters’ air burns or irritates theeyes and lungs leading to coughing and sometimes unconsciousness.Although the people wear gas masks, they are ordinarily not leakproof, which means they will breath the fumes coming from theunderground. People who mine sulfur sell it a cheap price usually tolocal companies hence, the society should discourage them from theactivity, as it not only put their lives at risk, but also those ofthe residents.
Althoughsometimes the substance exists in unadulterated, biological form, itfrequently occurs as sulfate and sulfide elements. From the onset, itis clear sulfur is a significant element with both benefits anddanger. Since it is abundant in natural form, people predominantlyuse it in the manufacture of sulfuric acid, fertilizers,insecticides, matchers, and fungicides. The industrial use of sulfuris beneficial to economies. However, continuous exposure to sulfur isharmful to people’s health. Protection from volcanic breathing andother elements that expose people to inhalation of sulfur is one ofthe health concerns. Because of its abundance, it is disastrous(especially if one becomes exposed to the element’s fumes) andbeneficial. The substance is usually only essential in the form ofmetal sulfides or organosulfur.
Anderson,Faye, George L. Delclos, and D. C. Rao. “The Effect of AirPollutants and Socioeconomic Status on Asthma in Texas.” Journalof Geo-science and Environment Protection,vol. 4, no. 9, 2016, pp. 39-42.
Dilles,John H., et al. “ZirconCompositional Evidence for Sulfur-Degassing from Ore-Forming ArcMagmas.” JournalofEconomicGeology,vol. 110, no. 1, 2015, pp. 241-251.
Leng,Cheng-Biao, et al. “Geology, Re-Os Ages, Sulfur and Lead Isotopesof the Diyanqinamu Porphyry Mo Deposit, Inner Mongolia, NE China.”JournalofEconomicGeology,vol. 110, no. 2, 2015, pp. 557-574.
Nadeau,Olivier. “Economic Geology: Ore Metals Beneath Volcanoes.” NatureGeoscience vol.8, no. 3, 2015, pp. 168.
Pomerantz,Andrew E., et al. “SulfurSpeciation in Kerogen and Bitumen from Gas and Oil Sholes.” JournalofOrganicGeochemistry,vol. 68, no. 7, 2014, pp. 5-12.
Zahnle,Kevin, and David Catling. “Waiting for O2.” GeologicalSociety of America Special Papers,vol. 50, no. 4, 2014, pp. 37-48.
No related posts.