The Risks of Gypsum in Animal Bedding

UK - The Environment Agency and HSE have raised concerns about the practice of adding gypsum and gypsum-based products such as recycled plasterboard to livestock bedding.
calendar icon 23 August 2012
clock icon 1 minute read
National Farmers Union

Earlier in the year, the EA warned that it was illegal to use waste and recycled gypsum in animal bedding without a permit. Anyone supplying or using recycled gypsum in livestock bedding could face prosecution, it was stressed.

Hydrogen sulphide (H2S) is a toxic gas that can be generated by slurry and manure. When gypsum is used as livestock bedding the concentration of hydrogen sulphide gas produced significantly increases.

Agitation of the slurry, for example to make pumping out easier, can greatly enhance the rate at which gas is given off, and suddenly release high concentrations of hydrogen sulphide.

Cattle deaths

There have been instances reported recently where cattle have died from hydrogen sulphide poisoning. Two recent human fatalities caused by exposure to high levels of hydrogen sulphide in a slurry system are also being investigated by the HSE, due to concerns that gypsum may have been used.

Hydrogen sulphide risks

Hydrogen sulphide has a rotten egg odour at low levels but at higher levels it cannot be detected. Atmospheric monitoring devices cannot always be relied on to give adequate warning of the danger. Hydrogen sulphide is highly toxic and can cause unconsciousness after taking a single breath at high concentration.

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