Friday, August 21, 2009

Seaweed on French beaches emitting lethal fumes: study

Terra Daily via Agence France-Presse: Mounds of rotting seaweed clogging beaches across northwestern France are emitting a toxic and potentially lethal gas, test results released by the government showed on Thursday. Tests were ordered on the foul-smelling algae, which green groups blame on nitrates fertilisers used by local farmers, after a horse apparently died from inhaling fumes on a beach in Saint Michel de Greve in Brittany.

Results showed the seaweed in Saint Michel was giving off dangerous levels of hydrogen sulphide (H2S), sometimes referred to as "sewer gas" because it is produced by the breakdown of putrified waste material. "Measurements carried out on site ... showed in several places that the gas released by sediment containing the decomposing algae could be dangerous," said France's national institute for environmental threats, INERIS.

Several points on the beach tested positive for hydrogen sulphide at a concentration of 1,000 parts per million, a level that "can be deadly in a few minutes," the report said. INERIS recommended the area be cordoned off as a short-term precautionary measure, and for workers charged with clearing the algae be equipped with hydrogen sulphide detectors….

The coast of Brittany at a less smelly time, shot by Johanna Pfeifer, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 License

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