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Friday chemical safety round up

Chemical health and safety news from the past few weeks:

Fires and explosions:

Leaks, spills, and other exposures:

Not covered (usually): meth labs; incidents involving floor sealants, cleaning solutions, or pool chemicals; transportation spills; things that happen at recycling centers (dispose of your waste properly, people!); and fires from oil, natural gas, or other fuels

Friday chemical safety round up

Chemical health and safety news since Thanksgiving:

Instead of tweet, a quote from a comment on Chemjobber’s post about high school chemistry demonstration accidents

Yesterday I went and filled out the paperwork to teach Chemistry at the community college across the street as an adjunct. I was required to watch a 25 minute CD on safety. The sound did not work on the CD. I went and told the person that I was filling out the paperwork about the problem the CD

She said “Oh, dont worry about it”.

Skipping the incidents for time reasons, will start fresh with those in January. Happy holidays!

Friday chemical safety round up

Chemical health and safety news from the past few weeks:

Court watch

  • On Nov. 20, UCLA chemistry professor Patrick Harran had a status check with the judge regarding felony charges of labor code violations that led to the death of researcher Sheharbano (Sheri) Sangji. The result of that status check was another status check scheduled for Jan. 10, 2014. Harran’s preliminary hearing concluded on April 26. We’re going on two years since charges were filed on Dec. 27, 2011, and five years since the Dec. 29, 2008, fire.
  • On Nov. 1, former UC Davis chemist David Snyder was arraigned on felony charges of reckless disposal of hazardous waste, possession of a destructive device or explosive, possession of materials with intent to make a destructive device, and possession of firearms on university property. The charges relate to an explosion in his campus apartment nearly one year ago. Snyder’s preliminary hearing concluded on Oct. 10. Snyder is scheduled for a trial-setting conference on March 17, 2014, and a jury trial to start on March 24, 2014.

Tweets of the month from @Free_Radical1:

Other items of interest

  • The president-elect of ACS, Diane Grob Schmidt, is currently the chair of the Division of Chemical Health & Safety
  • NIOSH released new recommendations for controlling worker exposure to nanomaterials
  • BioRAFT will hold a webinar on Proactive EHS Management & Communications on Dec. 12
  • Residents near an Allenco Energy oil field in Southern California have been complaining for three years about fumes from the site. At Sen. Barbara Boxer’s request, EPA investigators visited the site in October. “I’ve been to oil and gas production facilities throughout the region, but I’ve never had an experience like that before,” [EPA regional administrator Jared] Bumenfeld said. “We suffered sore throats, coughing and severe headaches that lingered for hours.” No word on what’s happened since.
  • Also in California, state regulators are supposed to match hazardous material origin paperwork with what arrives at disposal sites. They don’t. “These so-called lost loads include more than 20,000 tons of lead, a neurotoxin; 520 tons of benzene, a carcinogen; and 355 tons of methyl ethyl ketone, a flammable solvent some in the industry call ‘methyl ethyl death.’” (I’m curious to know what chemists think of that nickname. It’s flammable, yes, but it’s not ranked category 1 for any GHS hazard class.)
  • And, er, ALSO in California, a waste mystery: “more than 100 metric tons of the banned pesticide DDT and industrial compounds known as polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, have vanished from one of the country’s most hazardous sites, almost a 90% drop in just five years. Scientists are at a loss to explain the decline across the 17-square-mile site, which sits about 200 feet below the ocean surface and two miles off the Los Angeles County coast.” The chemicals wound up there from industrial waste dumped into sewers.

Fires and explosions

Leaks, spills, and other exposures

  • A 20,000-gal tank of liquid…something…overpressurized and launched itself through the roof of American Vinyl Company in Florida; one employee died and was found covered in a yellow liquid, while five others were injured
  • More than a pound of mercury spilled onto the ground and into a deep well at an Archer Daniels Midland site in Iowa, “when a contractor was pulling a submersible pump from the well and the mercury seal in the pump broke”
  • Sulfuric acid leaked from a Solvay plant in California, the cause was a malfunctioning scrubber; 13 people in the area were treated for nose and throat irritation and vomiting
  • Chlorine dioxide leaked at Nucor Steel in Arkansas; 18 employees and contractors were treated for exposure
  • Two workers at dental implant manufacturer Hiossen in Pennsylvania were pouring nitric acid from one container into another when some sort of reaction occurred; the workers were wearing gloves but no other PPE, and suffered burns to their airways and upper bodies
  • Gluteraldehyde spilled at an office building in Texas; the chemical was possibly intended to disinfect health care equipment that cannot be heat sterilized

University incidents

Not covered (usually): meth labs; incidents involving floor sealants, cleaning solutions, or pool chemicals; transportation spills; things that happen at recycling centers (dispose of your waste properly, people!); and fires from oil, natural gas, or other fuels

What’s that ‘bright orange’ chemical?

so asked See Arr Oh last week, regarding Carol Anne Bond’s case before the Supreme Court. Bond tried to poison her husband’s mistress. For her efforts, she wound up convicted of violating the Chemical Weapons Convention(*). NPR seems to have caught See Arr Oh’s attention with this:

Bond stole toxic chemicals from the chemical manufacturing company where she worked and ordered other chemicals over the Internet. She combined the chemicals into a compound that is potentially lethal in small amounts — and is also bright orange. Bond spread the toxic material on her rival’s mail, mailbox, front doorknob, car door and other surfaces.

But because of the orange color, the mistress, Myrlinda Haynes, easily spotted the chemicals and avoided any injury except a thumb burn.

See Arr Oh then went hunting through the SCOTUS brief to see what Bond actually used:

She purchased some potassium dichromate (a chemical commonly used in printing photographs) from Amazon.com, and stole a bottle of 10, 10-chloro-10-H-phenoxarsine (an arsenic-based chemical) from her employer. Petitioner knew the chemicals were irritants and believed that, if Haynes touched them, she would develop an uncomfortable rash.

But our intrepid blogger still has a question:

What I haven’t been able to figure out from the stories or briefings is whether she intended the combination of two potentially poisonous, irritant substances to function apart, or to perform some sort of solid-phase oxidation to, for example, phenoxarsine oxide (a known antimicrobial compound).

Thoughts, anyone?

(*) Whether the case is an appropriate use of the Chemical Weapons Convention is why the case is before the Supreme Court.

Friday chemical safety round up

Chemical health and safety news from the past week:

Fires and explosions:

Leaks, spills, and other exposures:

  • 10 gal of something only identified as “TCIR-ZR8690PB” and toxic at chemical distributor RinChem in Salt Lake City. Supposedly it’s some sort of resin used in manufacturing flash drives.
  • Nitrous oxide combined with carbon dioxide leaked at Cuisine Innovations in New Jersey; 30 people were hospitalized for exposure
  • Phenol spilled at a pharmacy in Maine, sending three employees to the hospital
  • A leak from a chile plant in New Mexico left workers complaining of “watery eyes and a chemical taste in their mouths”
  • Montana Tech called for a hazmat team “after university staff noticed Monday morning that a cabinet containing various bottled chemicals had crashed to the floor and spilled some of the chemicals”

Not covered (usually): meth labs; incidents involving floor sealants, cleaning solutions, or pool chemicals; transportation spills; things that happen at recycling centers (dispose of your waste properly, people!); and fires from oil, natural gas, or other fuels

Friday chemical safety round up

Chemical health and safety news from the past week. I’ll probably have fewer incidents than usual while the federal government is shut down and the Chemical Safety Board isn’t updating its accidents feed.

Tweet of the week:

Fires and explosions:

Leaks, spills, and other exposures:

Not covered (usually): meth labs; incidents involving floor sealants, cleaning solutions, or pool chemicals; transportation spills; things that happen at recycling centers (dispose of your waste properly, people!); and fires from oil, natural gas, or other fuels

#DavidSnyder ordered to trial in UC Davis explosives case

The preliminary hearing for former University of California, Davis chemist David Snyder concluded on Oct. 4. Yolo County Superior Court Judge David Reed determined that there was enough evidence to send Snyder to trial on 17 felony counts of reckless disposal of hazardous waste, possession of a destructive device or explosive, possession of materials with intent to make a destructive device, and possession of firearms on university property. The charges stem from a January explosion in Snyder’s campus apartment.

The preliminary hearing began on July 30 and was supposed to continue on Sept. 6 but was postponed to Oct. 4. In the first part of the hearing, deputy district attorney Martha Holzapfel called eight witnesses, the last of whom was Jason Winger, a West Sacramento police sergeant and member of the Yolo County bomb squad. Holzapfel completed direct questioning of Winger on July 30, and the hearing resumed on Oct. 4 with cross-examination by defense attorney Linda Parisi.

In cross-examining Winger, Parisi generally focused on amounts of materials, whether they were in forms that could be effectively used as explosives, and how authorities had tested them. For example, she asked about a vial that had tested positive for triacetone triperoxide (TATP) by a portable Raman spectrometer. Winger testified that the vial was about 1.75 inches tall and 0.75 to 1 inch in diameter, and that it probably contained about 10 to 14 g of material.

She also asked whether potassium perchlorate found in Snyder’s apartment was finely ground. Winger testified that it was more granular, and that reponders find it in both granular and finely ground forms in clandestine labs. Winger said that a finer powder would make for a more effective explosive.

Parisi next asked about a portable Raman device used for field testing and how it was calibrated. Winger said that he didn’t know about the calibration since it wasn’t his agency’s device. Parisi also asked about one Raman unit that authorities were trying to use to test a device in Snyder’s bedroom when the device exploded. Parisi asked whether that Raman unit was subsequently used to test other things in the apartment. Winger said that it was. The Raman unit has a glass shield to protect it from damage, and while the shield was damaged and removed, the technician operating the unit ran diagnostics that indicated the spectrometer was functioning all right after the explosion.

Parisi also asked whether the Raman unit used a single wavelength and whether it used “UV spectroscopy” (these appear to be the instrument specifications, although the instrument used may be an older model). She also asked if the investigators used gas chromatography or gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, and whether the forensic lab tested for materials other than what came up positive. Winger said that he didn’t know the details of what the forensic lab does.

Parisi next asked how investigators avoided cross-contamination. Winger said that in the field, items were spread out on tarps. The primary purpose of separating materials was to avoid having them react with each other, but it also serves to prevent cross-contamination. Also, the Raman unit can test the materials in clear containers without opening them, which also limits contamination.

Parisi asked Winger about whether he’d investigated other clandestine labs that involved chemists with Ph.D. degrees. Winger said he hadn’t. She asked whether Winger thought that more training would decrease the danger of a clandestine lab. Winger said that in his opinion, more training wouldn’t improve safety, because more training and experience could increase someone’s comfort level such that they’d be less cautious and not take safety precautions.

Among the items found in Snyder’s apartment was a solution of explosive propellant called double base smokeless powder (DBSP), as well as ingredients to make it. On redirect questioning, Holzapfer asked whether it was safe to make DBSP in Snyder’s apartment. Winger said no. As for whether Snyder could have safely stored the material, Winger said that while the state does not require specialized storage, it can’t be present on a university campus. Holzapfer also asked whether there was any safe way to make explosives in Snyder’s apartment. Winger said no.

Cross-examining Winger again, Parisi explored the safety question further. Winger said it is not safe to manufacture explosives or other illegal substances in an apartment. Parisi asked if that was true even given a very small amount. Winger responded that it depends on the circumstances, but even half to one ounce of a high explosive could inflict significant damage. He pointed out that Snyder himself was injured.

That concluded Winger’s testimony.

Parisi asked the judge to dismiss counts 7-10, those for possession of materials with intent to make a destructive device. Parisi said that while tests indicated that Snyder possessed items that could produce an explosion, there was no evidence he planned to mix them or create a destructive device.

Holzapfer argued in return that Snyder had mixed ammonium nitrate prills with aluminum, showing his intent to make a destructive device. He also made nitroglycerin and put it into a device, the one in Snyder’s bedroom that exploded when investigators tried to test it.

Parisi also asked the judge to combine counts 1-4 on reckless disposal of hazardous waste into one count, saying that although hazardous material had been deposited at four locations, there was no evidence that Snyder directed alleged accomplice Tashari El-Sheikh to do so or that Snyder had knowledge of the separate placements.

Holzapfer said that when you ask a second person to dispose of items, it’s a natural conclusion that they might place them in separate locations. Additionally, Snyder asked El-Sheikh to move a particular item from one place to another, Holzapfer said. Holzapfer also noted that there were multiple dumpsters involved at the four locations, and that there was significant risk to the community in both transporting the items to the locations and in leaving them in the dumpsters.

Parisi also argued that the firearms charges, counts 11-17, should be combined into one.

Holzapfer responded that the chargers are for each of the guns that investigators found in Snyder’s apartment.

Judge Reed then took a 10-minute recess to look at the exhibits and review his notes. When he returned, he said there was sufficient evidence to support the charges, such that there is a strong suspicion that the violations occurred and that Snyder committed the offenses. Reed did not change any of the charges. Reed set a “meet and confer” appointment with the attorneys for Oct. 25 and scheduled Snyder to be arraigned on Nov. 1.

Other coverage: Sacramento Bee, Woodland Daily Democrat

Friday chemical safety round up

I’ll be in Yolo County again today for the end of former University of California, Davis, chemist David Snyder’s preliminary hearing on explosives and firearms charges. Watch Twitter for updates and here on Monday for a recap.

Here’s the chemical health and safety news from the past few weeks:

Fires and explosions:

Leaks, spills, and other exposures:

Not covered (usually): meth labs; incidents involving floor sealants, cleaning solutions, or pool chemicals; transportation spills; things that happen at recycling centers (dispose of your waste properly, people!); and fires from oil, natural gas, or other fuels