SO2 Gas, and me

Doing something a little different with my weekly mini-story post, because I feel like celebrating a small achievement. It is an example of something small, something bad, and something stupid.


When I was working in the mines last September, we had a *small* gas problem. Have you heard of Sulphur Dioxide, or SO2? It’s not nearly as bad as Hydrogen Sulphide, which has the ‘rotten egg’┬ásmell and is extremely poisonous if you’re not in a well-ventilated area. Sulphur Dioxide has a ‘tangy’ sort of acidic taste or smell. It’s not considered to be that harmful if it’s in low doses in a well-ventilated area. Most of the gas was from the PAF (potentially acid forming) waste pile that sat on the surface of the mine, oxidising and weathering and releasing the gas as the rock developed a white powdery residue.


While I say the gas isn’t that harmful, we did have to walk around with gas detectors and gas masks (on our person, it didn’t have to be covering our faces the whole time) in case the alarm went off and then we’d need to, basically, get outta there. The gas burns a little – it might sting in your mouth, and sometimes your eyes (seriously, that’s when you need to put the gas mask on and leave), and for the poor guys working on the waste pile they developed blisters on their skin. It must be the acidic gas reacting with the sweat, because even though I didn’t work on the dump, the gas I was exposed to when I was elsewhere on the mine’s surface and the wind happened to be blowing the wrong way, well, I got blisters on my lips.

Anyway, after a few months of treating the dump with a lime-mixture, the gas stopped producing and we were fine. But my lips kept peeling, re-blistering, peeling and being okay for maybe a week or two before blistering again.


My lips went through this cycle of blistering and peeling for a year. A YEAR! Long after the gas had gone. It’s one of those minor irritants that you just get used to, and you expect that (eventually) it will fix itself. It didn’t happen. I used moisturiser, special sunscreen lip balm that seemed to work a little, then I decided maybe those things were making it worse and I should just leave it be.

No such luck.

So I finally decided to visit the doctor about it and she told me to use Vaseline. That’s right – that old fashioned pure petroleum jelly that fishermen and such use. And now, after about a month of applying it twice a day, I have no more blisters. It was something as simple as my skin not having the chance to repair itself properly. Such a simple fix, and I let go on for far too long.

That’s my little cause for celebration. It was also a reminder that just ignoring things rarely works – if you’ve got a small, niggling pain or issue, ignoring it is NOT going to make it go away. Get it checked out, and get it fixed. This time it was only a very minor thing, but it’s happened to me before with my feet and my shoulders and all sorts of things causing me pain until I went to the doctor and guess what? The doctor always puts me on the right path to fixing it. Go figure.

I feel stupid every time, and I need to stop ignoring these things!