Daughter, 22, saves family from gas leak after remembering school science lesson

When the Toman family's silver jewellery started to turn black, daughter Lucy immediately new something was wrong.

And that instinct potentially saved their lives, as it later turned out that there was a toxic hydrogen sulfide leak in their house.

The 22-year-old daughter of Julia and David, of Banbury, told Oxfordshire Live that the family started smelling “rotting egg and the smell of death” around the house.

They initially thought that it could have been blocked drains – and even turned to pest control.

She said: “We cleared all the drains to make sure that it wasn't a blockage and even had the oil boiler checked.

“We knew the smell was strongest in the garage."

The confusing situation grew worse on Saturday, October 16, when Lucy returned home from work to find that all of her silver jewellery had tarnished.

Ms Toman, who studied A-level chemistry – which came in handy – recalled how she learned at school about the “rotting egg smell” of the chemical, and about the oxidisation effects it has on silver.

Her mum said: “At this point, we knew that the gas could be toxic and called the fire service.

“They were here for around seven hours.

“There was two fire engines, two fire cars with toxic control people, two Anglian Water vans and an ambulance to check our blood oxygen levels and to do an ECG.”

The family was evacuated from their Helmdon home and taken to the Horton Hospital in Banbury after experts realised the toxic gas hydrogen sulfide was present.

Thankfully, despite inhaling the gas – which is known to cause migraines – for two days, they were given the all clear, and returned home once the gas had cleared.

According to Public Health England, acute inhalation exposure to high concentrations may result in collapse, respiratory paralysis, cyanosis, convulsions, coma, cardiac arrhythmias and death within minutes.

It also states that studies in experimental animals exposed to high concentrations of hydrogen sulphide via inhalation have resulted in respiratory and cardiovascular effects. The most sensitive target organ in animals following acute inhalation exposure is the respiratory tract. Following chronic exposure to hydrogen sulphide, “histopathological changes to the nasal epithelium are seen in rodents”.

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