Is the Smelly Air from the Salton Sea Bad for your Health?

Adrianna Weingold

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Is the Smelly Air from the Salton Sea Bad for your Health?

CREATED Aug. 30, 2012

SALTON SEA--You undoubtedly noticed a strong odor outside on Thursday. It's a stench valley residents are all too familiar with. The smell of decaying matter wafting over from the Salton Sea. Many residents wonder if the annoying scent could be bad for their health.

Across the valley and especially along the shores of the Salton Sea. there's a smell that's impossible to ignore. Thousands of dead talapia washing ashore. Bones from past massive fish die-offs litter the shores creating an intense and foul stench kind of like rotting-eggs.
"It smells like rotten fish, something fishy, just bad," Salton City resident Elizabeth Aceves said.
"At the moment it's kind of a little bit stinky, and putrid with the winds kind of blowing the wrong way, and because of the heat it's a little intensified," said Christina Lange who comes to the Salton Sea to photograph the infamously stinky body of water every year.
The smell is partly because of the dead fish, but it's also caused by bacteria released from decomposing algae that blooms during the summer. The algae bloom sucks the oxygen from the water and kills the talapia. Then it also decays, adding to the stench.
Experts say the hydrogen sulfide responsible for the rotten egg-like smell isn't harmful to humans at the levels seen at the Salton Sea. Still it's enough to stop people in their tracks for a photo-op.
"We were driving back and probably smelled it a few miles back and thought it has to be the sea," said Salton Sea visitor Eric Rapp.
The sea can at times smell sickening but environmental experts say it's nothing to worry about.
The stench usually lingers in the valley through August and parts of September but goes away when the weather cools down.
--Adrianna Weingold