Landfill gases are produced when bacteria break down organic waste, producing objectionable odors and toxic gases that move through soil and collect in nearby buildings. The gases produced include ammonia, sulfides, methane, carbon dioxide, and other various gases.
The number of gases present in the environment depends on the type of wastes decomposing in the area. The age of the structure, oxygen content, and the amount of moisture and temperature are other factors affecting gases present.
While some gases are responsible for the overall odor, methane and carbon dioxide make up 90 to 98 percent of the gas. Methane is a combustible, flammable gas with concentrations that can exceed explosive levels when indoors. Carbon dioxide can collect in nearby buildings through windows, ventilation systems, and doors. Both are colorless, odorless gases and in enclosed spaces can displace oxygen usually available.
Short-term exposure to high levels of gases can cause coughing, irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, headache, and nausea. Long-term exposure can cause more serious health effects, like breathing difficulties from a faster heartbeat and deeper breathing.
The second set of gases most responsible for toxic environments concerning landfills are ammonia and hydrogen sulfide. Ammonia is a colorless, odorless gas while hydrogen sulfide is colorless, but provides a rotten-egg smell that becomes sweeter as the concentration increases. Both gases have the same short and long term health effects as methane and carbon dioxide. But, hydrogen sulfide does cause a symptom referred to as knockdown: rapid unconsciousness often resulting in falls that can seriously injure personnel.
With proper gas detection equipment in place, gas levels can be monitored while reducing the risk of exposure. Data gathered by gas detection systems offer insight into general air quality, gas migration, health hazards, and conditions within the landfill itself.
Otis Instruments offers a variety of Wired and WireFree easy-to-use, robust, and configurable gas detectors capable of detecting both toxic and non-toxic gases for diverse applications within the landfill industry. To learn more about our gas detection solutions for your industry, contact Otis Instruments today!