Hydrogen Sulfide Suicides Come To The U.S.

Be Aware of This New Trend 

Two recent suicides in the US have brought a disturbing Japanese suicide trend to the media forefront. I must admit that I have some trepidation about posting this story. This seems like one of those things that becomes more popular the more it is reported. I’ve decided to write about this because I believe that, if this trend continues, sooner or later, an Emergency responder is going to get hurt. I think this info is worth passing on to other responders …. discretely.

Over the past several years Japan has been hit by a wave of suicides involving hydrogen sulfide gas. Some sources like USA Today report a death toll of 517 and climbing.

Apparently, significant amounts of hydrogen sulfide can be created by mixing household detergents and liquid cleaners together. How much is significant? Enough to kill everyone in the room where the chemical is mixed, evacuate an apartment complex and send 10 other individuals to the hospital.

Some of these deaths have been linked to group suicide pacts. Most of the dead found the recipe in internet chat rooms and online suicide forums though the recipe was even published by Bloomberg at one point. (The media outlet later rethought the idea and removed the article from its online database.)

I consider myself fairly internet savvy and after a 15 minute search, the exact recipe to kill myself with hydrogen sulfide eluded me. I did find one source willing to name two specific products, but details regarding quantities and technique were mindfully absent. I wouldn’t say that the instructions for this type of suicide are “readily available” as some media outlets have claimed, but I’m certain that the information can be found by those suitably motivated to go forward with this plan.

The two incidents that occurred in the U.S. looked surprisingly similar:

Bartow, Georgia. December 24th 2008

  • A man was found in his car at the Cooper Branch day use area of Lake Allatoona. Bystanders who discovered the vehicle did not open the door because of a sign taped inside the window reporting “Caution” and the name of the chemical. The responding sheriffnoticed two buckets inside the vehicle with a yellow substance inside and a young man who did not appear to be breathing. County HAZMAT mitigated the scene and removed and deconed the body.

Pasadena, California. August 26th 2008

  • A 20 year old man parked his vehicle behind the Ethan Allen store on Rosemead Ave. and pasted a sign in the window of the vehicle warning others of “Danger” with a skull and crossbones. Inside the vehicle Hazmat crews found household cleaners along with the body of the victim. The victim was confirmed dead by the corner at the scene.

Both of these scenes involved victims who were willing to isolate themselves from the public and attempted to warn would-be responders of the danger. Two thoughts that I had while looking at these incidents were:

  • This is a remarkably effective was to commit suicide. I haven’t found one report of someone doing this and failing in the Japanese incidents or the U.S. examples. Even if help arrived while the victim was still savable, the time it would take to respond Hazmat, remove the party and appropriately decon them would almost ensure that they would still be successful.
  • There is just such a huge potential for would be responders to get hurt by blundering into one of these scenes. It seems far more likely that we will run serious secondary exposures from this kind of suicide than run on the actual suicidal party. The Japanese apartment complex incident certainly demonstrated that as well as the case of the father who died trying to rescue his son.

The big take home message here is maintaining that heightened sense of situational awareness. I know that it seems like we drill on that a lot but it seems like we just can’t say it enough. When we walk in on these party down calls we need to really pay attention to what’s going on around us. It’s not going to save us every time, but it certainly kept some of these responders out of trouble.

Be safe out there.

Addendum: After posting this I have become aware of one other event in the U.S. that was likely a hydrogen sulfide suicide attempt.

San Jose, California. February 12th, 2009

A young man was found by his mother in his bedroom with pans of chemicals. This time the patient only receive a cursory decon at the scene and shut down San Jose California’s busiest emergency room for five hours.

 The author would like to thank EMT City user 4cmk6 for posting this to the news group.

 

Author update 3/20/09:

Since posting this piece I have moderated several comments from helpful readers providing the exact detailed recipe for creating hydrogen sulfide out of household chemicals. I’m now well aware of what products can be mixed to produce hydrogen sulfide gas in the proper lethal concentration.

If you are a public agency looking for more info on what household products may be used in this process feel free to e-mail me for further details. If you are in possession of this information I ask you to please not post it here. I would prefer this site to not contain detailed information that individuals could use to harm themselves and others. Thanks.

Steve

Comments

  1. Dr.Kiriyu says:

    A new suicide method was developed instead of suicide by hanging and suicide by briquest(carbon monoxide poisoning).
    You don’t have to provide rope for suicide by hanging or make a fire for suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning.
    It is easier than suicide by hanging or by briquest(carbon monoxide poisoning).

    Dangerous Japanese ‘Detergent Suicide’ Technique Creeps Into U.S.
    http://blog.wired.com/27bstroke6/2009/03/japanese-deterg.html

    Chemical TerrorismFact Sheet
    Blood Gas Agents – Hydrogen Sulfide
    http://www.bioterrorism.slu.edu/blood/quick/hydrosul.pdf

    Mujahideen Poisons Handbook
    http://thedisease.net/functions.php?PHPSESSID=35ecd42d8c5c82507b03643c3e05485d&arcanum=nbc/chemical/Mujahideen_Poisons.pdf

  2. The obvious answer, at least to me, is to provide a system by which adults can commit suicide which does not endanger others. Just who decided that death should only come by “natural” means anyway?. Which is worse from the outsiders point of view, falling asleep from an overdose of barbituates or jumping in front of a train? Perhaps if suicide was easy to obtain then the power of shame might change social policies which destroy individuals … poverty, student loans … you name it.,

  3. Actvs Dei says:

    The fact that there is no safe commercial way to commit suicide means that people have to resort to DIY methods that may endanger others. People have the right to die anytime they want. You should be able to go to the mall and have yourself terminated at any time for any reason.

  4. what are some of the signs ie smells of this so that the responder might be more aware as you walk into a man down scene?

  5. I just received notification that is has occurred in Raleigh, NC on Feb. 22, 2010.
    Jason – supposedly, it produces a rotten egg type smell, but that once you smell it, it starts to breakdown you nasal passages and you lose your ability to smell…therefore, you are unable to determine the detrimental effects of the chemicals…
    As to the others of you, as an individual who has dedicated her life to helping others in need, I cannot even imagine why one would want to make it easier for people to commit suicide. Individuals go through many things in their lives that may seem at the time have no other way out besides suicide; however, those that consider it selfishly believe that they are the only ones affected by their pain. Whether you put first responders in danger or not, you leave behind loved ones, family, friends that will never understand and will have pain for the rest of their lives.

  6. Doccer_Sall says:

    There should be a simple way for people to commit suicide. Nobody knows the troubles another is going through enough to say what is best for them. If someone wants to die today, they should have that right.

    Especially since they were forced to be alive in the first place. We’re all born here against our will. We should have the type of system that allows suicide by a safe means.

    If not, innocent people will always be at risk when others attempt to commit suicide. Suicide has always happened, it still happens, and it will continue to happen. So let’s stop kidding ourselves with pointless talks such as (people should realize that….) and let’s allow suicide through safe means.

  7. For those you suggest that there should be a fast convenient way for someone to kill themselves, you have obviously have never been involved with the survivors that people who kill themselves leave behind. Yes, generally people who kill themselves see a completely bleak picture with no way out except suicide. I know the pain can be unbearable and you just want it to stop – I have been there. But, I have also seen first hand the after effects of suicide. My fiancee’s daughter was 16 when her father committed suicide and at 24 she has still not gotten over the loss and the pain. Additionally, the children of a parent (or parents) who commit suicide are more likely to commit suicide. Is that a legacy you want for your child(ren)? In many ways suicide is selfish in that you leave a mess for others to deal with.

  8. Joseph Bodet, M.D. says:

    Perhaps these individuals were not dead. The absence of vital signs may reflect a state of suspended animation.
    http://www.ted.com/talks/mark_roth_suspended_animation.html

    These individuals should likely be cooled systemiclly, intubated and transported to a level I trauma center experienced in reanimation techniques.

    Any responder who loses consciousness should also be presumed to be in a state of suspended animation and treated accordingly.

  9. TheLogical says:

    @ John. The selfish argument is void because if you would know how many people suffer in silence for their loved ones you would think twice before saying that .Plus it’s not fair to let the person keep living just so you can have a life without heartache. If you want to live, it’s part of life..it’s a package and for some the game is rigged.Many just had enough and want out. This does not happen because of a break up or some other temp state of mind but this is YEARS,DECADES that the person just does not feel that life is worth it, they don’t belong, they just had enough. It happens and it’s constantly increasing worldwide every years..say’s something doesn’t it?

  10. Ferguson says:

    I’m a student at Indiana University in Bloomington, IN. A student recently committed suicide using hydrogen sulfide gas.

    http://www.idsnews.com/news/story.aspx?id=75199

  11. I have never wanted to end my life but I certainly have been through enough horrible situations to know how much pain one can have in life. I had cancer while I was pregnant, and endured chemotherapy and various surgeries. Even though this was all very traumatic and scarring I never once thought of ending my life because I care far too much for the people I’d leave behind. There is no way suicide is not selfish, even if you have no loved ones to leave behind. Someone is going to have to clean up after you, even if you use the cleanest method of killing yourself. Someone is going to have to pay to autopsy your body if you have no-one else to do so. Someone is going to have to pay to cremate you or bury you, and depending on your method of offing yourself it could be pricey because special precautions need to be taken to protect the public.

    These H2S suicides are supposedly the “quickest” and “painless” ways to kill yourself. I suppose the person who mix these chemicals really doesn’t care what happens beyond their last breath but think that after all this nonsense the public won’t even be allowed to buy things with sulfur in them because the companies can’t be burdened with the selfish beings that misuse their products this way. Not to mention the fact that our law enforcement officers and EMTs put themselves in danger for everyone everyday, but someone who can’t get over how “unfair” life is or how they “can’t go on” goes and endangers not only the officials but the common public because they can’t hang. It is impossible to buy certain medications that used to be OTC because idiots make meth out of them without showing an ID and even then you can’t buy but ONE box every 30 days.

    It is nonsense and needs to stop. Get some help. Become a recluse. Do whatever you want as long as it doesn’t endanger or burden someone else. If you want to die, quit eating. Stop drinking. It’ll happen naturally. Don’t worry how “painful” it will be because obviously you are already in pain and you’ll be getting what you want, so suck it up and do it. Because you obviously don’t care who will be in pain if a police officer, or EMT open a car door with 1000PPM of H2S inside. Look up chemical pneumonia, it isn’t pretty and that is what you’re leaving behind, you selfish asses.

    Sorry for the rant, and God bless all of you who put your lives in danger to protect the public day in and day out. Your service is extremely appreciated by me and I pray for your safety and well being!

  12. John Byrne says:

    @Filthy, I see you are citing the so called Christian God who is responsible for so much suffering on this planet with all that has been done in his name. Strip out the reference to the Sky Fairy and your comments are just an un-Christian rant.

  13. Just another update. In northeast South Dakota yesterday, August 18, 2010 we had someone commit suicide by this.

  14. Yesterday, my friends youngest brother killed himself with a gas that had an odor, turned him green, was made with a gardening supply, and almost killed his parents and all the animals in the house in doing so, is this hydrogen sulfide, and yes it was over a break-up that happened a year ago, he was only 18 or 19

  15. @ Filthy “even though this was all very traumatic and scarring I never once thought of ending my life because I care far too much for the people I’d leave behind.”

    Wow are you self-righteous and presumptuous. It couldn’t be that some people have a lower capacity for pain or have suffered more or have less things to live for, no your just more caring than they are.

    “Someone is going to have to clean up after you, even if you use the cleanest method of killing yourself. Someone is going to have to pay to autopsy your body if you have no-one else to do so. Someone is going to have to pay to cremate you or bury you,”

    You know what else requires all of this? Natural death. Everyone dies eventually, and someone is going to have to clean it up.

    So let me get this straight, suicide is selfish, but expecting someone to continue on in a joyless tormenting life just because you like seeing them walk around isn’t? Give me a break. No one agrees to being born, so it is selfish and controlling to claim that they have some sort of duty to die against their will.

  16. A friend killed himself this month by creating and inhaling hydrogen sulfide. He was found unconcious, lingered in a coma at the hospital for a week, then died- leaving 2 girls without a father, and his wife, family and friends devistated. If he had stabbed everyone he knew with a knife, it would not bve as painful as his suicide. This act will destroy his daughter’c childhoods. They are devistated.
    Good friend, but now he’s burning in Hell. What a waste.

  17. Fred R. says:

    Well to commit suicide,there’s an easier way. Cleaner too. Just obtain a syringe and a needle. Inject an air bubble in a vein. Simple. Euthanasia should be legalized anyway. If everything gets to be too much,just go. Good Luck!!

  18. filthy hit it right on the head. ik of a kid who just did this terrible thing to himself. you dont have the right to choose if you live or die. you are cast into this world and from then on it is your choice to wander or succeed. assuming god does not exist, you are still being incredibly selfish if you kill yourself. people will need you at some point. the fact that you, dave” is willing to label filthy as selfish is as idiotic as you can get. grow a pair and get through the day. just because youre a failure in life (or a failure as far as you see it) does not mean you can let someone, be it your family, who nurtured you, or a neighbor who was taking a walk, see you in that state. even if you had simple suicide methods with little or no clean up youre still leaving those who care about you behind.

  19. I am the daughter of a man who killed himself. It happened over 40 years ago and I will never get over it. I know the suffering he and other suicidal people go through as I too am suicidal. There’s no easy answer to the moral question of whether someone in unbearable psychological pain “owes” it to another person to keep suffering that pain to avoid hurting the other person. I believe it depends on the situation. I strongly believe that parents with children of any age under say 20 have a moral obligation to hang on until their children are of age. A legacy of suicide is a terrible thing to leave your children. They will never forget it.

    I also think that people need to be better educated about the signs of a pending suicide. Sometimes but not always the suicide ambivalently reaches out or sends signs that he or she is about to commit suicide. Often these clues are missed by people who do not recognize them. I was too young to have recognized these signs in him or to have helped my father, but later learned that he was broadcasting the “help me” signs to my relatives. They did not see the signs. I don’t blame them. It was ignorance.

    If I could have, I would have done ANYTHING to save him. His knowledge of this fact and my great love for him may or may not have helped or deterred him, but sadly, I will never know.

  20. It’s not enough to stick around for loves ones. Now THAT is selfish. Is it better to force someone just you could feel beter or is it better to let that person go free knowing he was in too much pain. Why do you think people commit suicide without letting anyone know. PEOPLE SHAME IT, they JUDGE IT and it will never be the same when you KNOW the person is suicidal (talking about experience).

    Life isn’t for everyone, yes suicide causes suffering for both family friends but that’s the GAME. It’s LIFE! You accept it the moment you are forced into existence by selfish parents who want to full their lives at your expense. Do not procreate, it’s russian roulette.

  21. My son killed himself last year in his college parking lot – he was only 18…. Just want to share what a wonderful soul he was…. This was on 5/5/10…

    abcnews.go.com/Health/Depression/chemical-suicide-

  22. fortysix&two says:

    In Japanese society (where this hydrogen sulfide suicide became popular), it is crucial to maintain harmony among one another, its a belief that is fully acknowledged and practiced. Once that harmony is disrupted, everyone suffers, and that is what they try to avoid, hence why there are so many suicides there. Many times, the individual will commit suicide due to disrupting that harmony (in whatever way) and the grief they bare which is created within in themselves and also received from others. I’m not saying that suicide is in any way encouraged there but it is a result of one of the many facets of the natural phenomenon – survival of the fittest. I think they hit the nail on the head with that concept because it is practiced in all of humanity but not always acknowledged or talked about… and it needs to be. Some people who choose to commit suicide are in a situation where their said “loved ones”, family members and such, actually encourage them to go through with it. This can happen on a wide scale – among cohorts in a school or a small scale such as a small circle of family – a household. Most of the time its not said directly but the point is well received by the target. This can be done by anger, violence, abuse, neglect, etc. I’m not talking about the occasional “I wish you were never born”, we all receive from our parents at one time or another. I’m talking about a unanimous decision that is felt and not always verbally communicated among family to give up on, alienate, and torment a member of the household until their existence is no longer present (however that may occur, moving out, complete estrangement, suicide, etc). Some causes of this are financial strain, dishonor, and complex, unresolvable, heavily emotional feuds – all which disrupt the harmony. The source is then picked and targeted. This is the human version of survival of the fittest within a group. I understand that yes, we are human and we are much more complex, but we are animals first. Animals leave their weak behind and the weak don’t fight it, nor do any of the other members of the group (i.e. when a sibling quickly adopts the demeanor of their parents towards another sibling). This is a natural system set in place by biology to keep one weak animal from weakening the entire group. In that light, suicide becomes a respected and selfless act and in my personal opinion, I find it disgusting that humans have not found a more civilized way to carry this out. Sometimes suicide is NOT preventable and sometimes it is indeed the best option. I truly believe that physician assisted suicide should extend passed terminal illness into mental illness. There should be a designated age where its appropriate and a psychological evaluation beforehand. With as advanced as we are in absolutely everything, humans should not have to resort to committing a suicide that may put others at risk and one which also leaves a gruesome image in the minds of the people who find them. We need to wake up and realize that this WILL continue to happen, no matter what we say or do, its NATURE, we cant control it, but what we CAN control is how it happens.

  23. Donna Wooten says:

    I need to know what the chemicals are so that I may not have them in my house. I have a son that has constantly threaten suicide and is researching this method. Please help!

  24. The person who suggested using needle & syringe doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
    If the air bubble hits your heart, yes, it would likely kill you. You just pass out and that’s it.
    But the bubble could go to your brain and give a stroke leaving you paralyzed for life,
    unable to walk or talk, etc.
    Or it could go to your lungs and give you a pulmonary embolism.
    You can’t breath and you lay there and suffer in agony.
    Are you willing to roll the dice on that??

  25. SufferingInOz says:

    My brother (aged 32) used this method 6 weeks ago to kill himself in his car in a secluded forest in the country (Australia). He is the third Australian person to use this method and SA emergency crews had to contact America to ask how to deal with this situation.

    I certainly hope it isn’t going to catch on here. However, it does seem like a reasonably quick and painless way to go. Those who use this method have no out. There isn’t a fail rate if you’ve researched it properly. He wanted out, he got out.

    He left a sign up for the police and emergency crews so no one else came to harm.

    I do wish he’d left us a note telling us why though.

  26. Filthy's Nemesis says:

    Hey Filthy, If you die of old age someone has to clean up after you too. How selfish of you to die at all.

  27. Well, people do have a right to kill themselves..but knowing that we are an infinite amount of pure energy and consciencensness that excists inside AND outside the body that has always excisted and always will, would it be kind of foolish trying to kill yourself? You would not end your existance, you would only turn your working body into a corpse… and why? Turning your body into a corpse doesnt do anything about the pain…

  28. Kathy Cummins says:

    My Twenty year old son took his life by this method on November 09, 2013. He was found in a church parking lot in the car. He also, posted a note on the vehicle. We lost a gentle kind soul. Who is missed so very much.. We need to have more research for Mental Illness!! And we need to treat the right meds for suicide disease.. He left us a note.. Heaven has received an angel..

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