Chemical health and safety news from the past couple of weeks:
- On Reddit, What’s the worst lab accident you’ve ever caused? (h/t to Chemjobber for this one)
- ChemBark discussed bystander roles in lab accidents
- From the Pump Handle, NIOSH programs targeted in President’s 2012 spending proposal and White House throws OSHA under a bus
- Police hunt man asking for lethal chemical–”A man demanding the potentially toxic chemical potassium cyanide approached professors at the University of Toronto twice within three months”
- Clorox discloses what’s in the bottle–preservative, dye, and fragrance ingredients with CAS numbers at Ingredients Inside
- Target to pay $22.5 million to settle hazardous-waste dumping case in California:
Violations included improper storage, transportation and disposal of bleach, paint, pesticides, batteries, lightbulbs and other hazardous materials. Prosecutors accused the retail giant of cutting corners for the bottom line. Chemicals returned by customers or found to be defective were poured down the drain, tossed into dumpsters and trucked to landfills not equipped for hazardous waste.
Stores also kept incompatible and combustible liquids like ammonia and bleach side-by-side on shelves and poured them into dumpsters mixed together, creating fire and other safety hazards, prosecutors said.
Target also allegedly fobbed off even more waste in bulk donations to local charities, including the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, which received more than 5,000 pounds of unusable, flammable and toxic products in 2008, prosecutors said.
- Three states challenge federal policy on storing nuclear waste, regarding waste storage at out-of-service reactors
- The UK’s Sellafield, which handles nuclear site decommissioning, fuel reprocessing, and waste management, received a citation for a leak of radioactive liquid that went unnoticed for 14 months (until the prime minister showed up for a visit)
- Rainbow of fireworks leaves blackened bouquets in China after new year celebrations–”In recent days errant fireworks have killed two people in Beijing, injured 388 others and started 194 blazes, about twice as many as last year, according to the state media. On the opening night of the holiday, one Beijing hospital treated 85 people with firecracker-related injuries, the majority of them involving eyes. … In the eastern province of Zhejiang, six people were killed in a forest fire that officials say was sparked by carousing villagers.”
- Apple admits toxic chemicals disabled employees of Chinese suppliers in its 2011 Supplier Responsibility Progress Report:
In 2010, we learned that 137 workers at the Suzhou facility of Wintek, one of Apple’s suppliers, had suffered adverse health effects following exposure to n-hexane, a chemical in cleaning agents used in some manufacturing processes. We discovered that the factory had reconﬁgured operations without also changing their ventilation system. Apple considered this series of incidents to be a core violation for worker endangerment.
We required Wintek to stop using n-hexane and to provide evidence that they had removed the chemical from their production lines. In addition, Apple required them to ﬁx their ventilation system. Since these changes, no new workers have suffered difficulties from chemical exposure.
To prevent future incidents at this facility, we required Wintek to work with a consultant to improve their Environmental Health and Safety processes and management systems. We are monitoring the implementation of these corrective actions and preventive measures, and will conduct a complete reaudit of the facility in 2011.
Fires and explosions:
- An explosion involving hexafluorobutane sent one SynQuest Laboratories worker to hospital with serious but not life-threatening injuries; the worker was handling about 4.5 L and it sounds like it warmed past its boiling point; SynQuest specializes in making fluorinated compounds and is located in Florida
- One worker was burned in a flash fire at a Sherwin-Williams plant in North Carolina; “fire investigators believe some chemical vapors ignited, but the cause of the actual spark is still unknown”
- Two people were burned in an explosion at a “fake fertiliser factory” in Bangladesh
- Sodium chlorite, moisture, and cardboard combined to cause a fire at Wisconsin’s DeVere, which makes concentrated cleaners, disinfectants, and laundry-care products
- Explosions heard at Hondo Chemical in California were traced to sulfur burning in a cement pit; “The cause of the fire was from an operation earlier in the day due to friction from mixing the product, the County Fire Department reported”; the plant “has been fined numerous times for illegal disposal of hazardous waste”
- A fire at Enterprise Products in Texas “consumed a large part of the natural gas liquid fractionation plant, which also provides storage and makes octane-boosting gasoline additives
- Scrap aluminum exploded while being lodaded into a furnace at a recycling plant in Minnesota, likely because some water got on it; one worker was badly burned
- Magnesium caught fire at Great Plains Polymer in Nebraska; no injuries
- A fire at UK foiling and embossing manufacturer Sil-Die led to the explosion of two phosphorus tanks and concerns about magnesium and acetone in the basement
- A fire at Danish pharmaceutical firm Lundbeck resulted in the hospitalization of ten fire fighters for chemical exposure
- A fire in a University of Rochester chemistry lab apparently somehow involved igniting a solvent being used in column chromatography; the department chair speculates that “one of the metal catalysts within the chemical reaction taking place had dried out and caused a spark,” possibly related to a change in quenching protocol; the student was not wearing a lab coat and suffered some minor burns
- A bomb squad was called to a home in Chicago to clear fireworks after an explosion injured the owner
- An “unskilled amateur chemist” was apparently trying to emulate “Mythbusters” when he set off an explosion in California; he was injured setting off a thermite explosion in October and the story seems to indicate that he was trying it again, this time in larger quantity
- Chihuahua causes freak house fire after chewing mobile phone–”Lily the Chihuahua apparently chewed through a Samsung handset and dislodged the battery while gnawing on it. The dog’s saliva is believed to have caused a chemical reaction with the lithium in the phone’s battery, and the heat from the reaction then ignited the carpet.”
Leaks, spills, and other exposures:
- A Bristol-Myers Squibb chemist allegedly poisoned her husband with thallium
- Some sort of acid spilled at BAE Systems in New Hampshire; four people were taken to hospital for evaluation
- Xylene, 300 gal, from a holding tank in Arizona
- Thiophenol, 30 L from a 200-L tank, at a transport company in Germany; 15 people were hospitalized at 150 others were evaluated for exposure
- Hydrochloric acid, 300 tonnes, at Chemical Industry Far East in Singapore
- Ozone at a meant plant in Virginia; the article says that the ozone is used as an “accelerator,” whatever that means; six people went to a hospital and 26 more refused medical evaluation
- Ammonia at food-processing plants in Maryland and Alabama; a food packaging company in Maryland; a cold storage plant in Oklahoma; LED manufacturer Cree in North Carolina; and a police department evidence storage area in Iowa
- Chlorine at a water treatment plant in Rhode Island
- Sulfur dioxide at an Air Liquide site in Australia
- Acrolein at Oregon Health and Science University; no serious injuries
- Bromine at Sam Houston State University’s Chemistry & Forensic Science Building; two people treated and released
- Sodium metal at Lutheran College in Australia
- Mercury from a barometer at a high school in Idaho
- 300 L of a corrosive cleaning chemical, Nitrobrite, spilled at a New Zealand Brewery, where the cleaner “was reacting with the container it was stored in” (anyone know what’s in the stuff?)
- A cop pulled over a car and smelled a strong chemical odor, which resulted in a call to hazmat crews to deal with “magnesium carbonate, mannitol and lidocaine, which can be used manufacture drugs” and hospital evaluations for all
- Also on roads and railways: phosphoric acid, carbon dioxide (okay, technically not ON the road, but it was being transported in a tanker), ammonium nitrate