A Richmond district apartment building was evacuated and part of a street was blocked off for more than an hour Monday after police discovered a body and chemicals in one of the units, a police sergeant said.
About 8:50 a.m., officers made a well-being check on a 41-year-old man at an apartment in the 400 block of 43rd Avenue, where it appeared a person died by suicide, Sgt. Danielle Newman said.
Emergency personnel also suspected that they encountered hazardous materials on the premises and thus evacuated the building, according to Newman.
The stretch of 43rd Avenue between Point Lobos Avenue and Clement Street was also blocked for several hours while hazmat crews and the Medical Examiner's Office responded.
The resident's family members called police at 8:11 a.m. requesting the well-being check, Newman said, noting that authorities have not determined if the body is that of the resident.
Humberto Quinonez, a Department of Public Health hazmat official who assisted with the investigation at the scene, said it appeared that a mixture of hydrochloric acid and calcium polysulfide created a hydrogen sulfide gas that killed the victim.
“His skin was the color green in accordance with hydrogen sulfide exposure,” Quinonez said.
Authorities aired out the apartment and removed the body shortly after noon.
Hydrogen sulfide is most commonly found in industrial workplaces, such as in petroleum production and refining, sewer and wastewater treatment, textile manufacturing, food processing, asphalt paving and mining, among others.
It can be lethal if someone is exposed to a very high dose, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Josh Mory, 21, who three months ago moved down the hall from where the body was found on the second floor of the building, said he started smelling something unusual several days ago.
“I never smelled a dead body before,” Mory said. “I thought someone maybe had some bad food and threw it away.”
But he said the smell had intensified when he came home Sunday night.
“Last night is when I really smelled the brunt of it,” Mory said. “It was terrible. I thought someone burned something. I was going to say something, but when I entered my apartment, there was no smell.”
Newman said the Medical Examiner's Office will determine whether the death was a suicide, accidental or a homicide. Homicide investigators were not called to the scene.
The man's identity has not been released.