Oil Well Fires
found in U.S. cities and are known to cause acute health hazards at high concentrations. Hydrogen Sulfide is normally
found in oil field producing regions of the world. During March through May 1991, the U.S. Interagency Air Assessment
Team (USIAAT), comprised of several U.S. Government Agencies, was dispatched to the Arabian Gulf to assess the
immediate, acute health hazards from the oil fires by applying multiple air sampling methods. The two chemical
pollutants with the greatest potential health hazard, hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide, were determined to be
present in concentrations below respective harmful levels established by the USEPA for the United States, both near
the oil field fires and at locations sampled downwind.
The three major pollutants from
the Kuwait Oil Fires, with known
acute health effects, were sulfur
dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, and
particulate matter (i.e., soot).
These pollutants, excluding
hydrogen sulfide, are normally
However, the USIAAT measured elevated concentrations of particulate matter in the oil fires smoke. These elevated
levels of particulate matter remained a cause of concern during the time frame in which the oil fires were ablaze.
There were instances, under certain meteorological conditions, where the oil fires super-plume remained near ground
level. The elevated levels of the particulate matter during these instances could have caused respiratory problems
for individuals with asthma and other obstructive lung diseases.
Also see Health Outcomes & Concerns topic:
Asthma Concerns Due to Oil- Fire-Smoke in the Gulf War