Philo Sulfate and Fatal Flatulence

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Recently, I received e-mail from someone who had the words “Philo Sulfate” pop into their head and felt the to relate that to me after reading my blog. I puzzled over the meaning of this. I knew what sulfate was but not what philo might refer to. But he found information on philo, and Wikipedia spells it out:


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Suffixes with the common part -phil- (-phile, -philia, -philic) are used to specify some kind of attraction or affinity to something, in particular the love or obsession with something. They are antonymic to suffixes -phob-.

Phil- (Philo-) may also be used as a prefix with a similar meaning.

Anaerobic bacteria deep in the ocean love sulfates but in sufficient numbers could lead to our extinction, as well as that of most species on the planet, if we don’t take action to prevent it. These bacteria obtain their energy not by oxidizing hydrocarbons as we do but rather by reducing sulfates into hydrogen sulfide or by oxidizing hydrocarbons into HS2 using sulfur or by digesting certain sulfur containing amino acids.

Hydrogen sulfide is a gas that gives flatulence, sewage, rotten eggs, rotten cabbage, and decomposing or burning rubber it’s characteristic bad odor. The human nose can detect hydrogen sulfide in concentrations at about 30 parts per billion. At this level, exposure up to eight hours is considered safe.

At 3 parts per million, hydrogen sulfide is hazardous and breathing apparatus is required to avoid metabolic damage. At concentrations of ten parts per million, people lose their sense of smell in 3-15 minutes. Eye and throat irritation and damage results if exposure is sustained for more than about ten minutes. People may no longer be aware of danger once they’ve lost their sense of smell.

At 20 parts per million, exposure of more than one minute will result in severe eye and optic never injury. At 30 parts per million, damage to the blood brain barrier results. At 100 parts per million, respiratory paralysis will occur in 15-45 minutes.

In addition to the direct toxic effects of hydrogen sulfide, hydrogen sulfide also destroys the ozone later.

There is speculation that global warming led to the Permian Extinction by the evolution of hydrogen sulfide into the atmosphere and levels are believe to have reached 100-200 parts per million.

Cold water absorbs oxygen readily, warmer water does not. Oxygen enters the ocean near the poles where cold water readily absorbs oxygen and then sinks and returns at depth to equatorial regions bringing oxygen with it. Those currents are in part also driven by differences in salinity.

Reduction in the salinity of polar waters caused by global warming melting more ice and feeding more fresh waters into the oceans has slowed the ocean conveyor currents to about half of previous levels while at the same time warmer waters absorb less oxygen.

Added to this problem, we are adding huge quantities of organic materials into the oceans in the form of fertilizer and farm waste run-off and inadequately treated human sewage. These are causing massive algae blooms on or near the surface of the ocean depriving algae deeper from receiving any light and thus from producing oxygen, while at the same time when algae and other marine organisms near the surface die, they sink and then their decomposition uses what little oxygen remains.

The conditions for anaerobic hydrogen-sulfide producing bacteria to flourish and once again fill the atmosphere with toxic hydrogen sulfide are increasingly becoming prevalent. If we wish to avoid death by fatal fart, we must take strong action to reverse global warming and to stop adding nutrients and organic materials.

Another major source of hydrogen sulfide, about ten percent of what is entering the atmosphere presently, is oil refineries. During the process of sulfur removal from crude, some hydrogen sulfide is released. This problem will only become worse as the worlds supply of light sweet crude is used up and refineries are forced to use heavier more sulfur rich (sour) crude.

Volcanoes also contribute both hydrogen sulfide directly into the oceans and atmosphere as well as carbon dioxide and are thought to be the source of global warming during the Permian extinction, and volcanic activity, particularly underwater activity is on the upswing. While we can’t do much to stop volcanoes we can at least reduce both our production of CO2 and organic materials being dumped into the oceans.

If we wish to avoid death by flatulence, we must take steps now to get off of fossil fuels, and clean up our waste water before it gets dumped into the oceans.

Category: Future

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