Friday chemical safety round-up

Chemical health and safety news from the past week:

  • The chemistry reddit strikes again with a photo of a nitric acid burn–from the comments, “She was getting some nitric acid for glass cleaning, and for some reason it was in a plastic bottle (I thought they were always supposed to be in glass). The bottle had corroded and it burst when she picked it up.”
  • Detonation chamber arrives in Utah to blow up corroded chemical munitions–historically, disposal technicians cut open the munitions, drained mustard gas, and sent the two parts to separate incinerators, but they found 300 artillery shells and mortar rounds that they consider too dangerous to handle, so they’re going to detonate them in an 80-ton chamber instead
  • An open letter in Science calls for “improved testing guidelines and better methods of assessing risks posed by common chemicals to which all Americans are exposed,” by the American Society of Human Genetics, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the Endocrine Society, the Genetics Society of America, the Society for Developmental Biology, the Society for Pediatric Urology, the Society for the Study of Reproduction, and the Society for Gynecologic Investigation
  • Dana Farber Cancer Institute reviews procedures after suicide; 14 people, mostly first responders, were decontaminated at the suicide scene and evaluated at a local medical center. I discussed a similar safety review after a suicide by a Northeastern lab technician here.
  • These products seem intriguing: XploSense strips for detecting and XPell pellets for prevention of peroxides in organic solvents. The website says that the pellets are “an inorganic material that is insoluble in organic solvents” and they seem to be based on the work of Allen Apblett and Nicholas Materer at Oklahoma State. I couldn’t find a patent (yet?).
  • Missouri chemist sentenced for possessing cyanide–Hessam S. Ghane “testified that he kept the deadly chemical under his sink to use for suicide if his depression became too unbearable. Prosecutors, however, believed that he planned to use the cyanide in an elaborate scheme to kill federal employees, possibly even a federal judge who had dismissed some civil suits that Ghane had filed years earlier.”
  • Use of toxic acid puts millions at risk–hydrofluoric acid, still in use at 50 U.S. refineries as a catalyst to make high-octane gasoline; “Over the past five years, authorities have cited 32 of the 50 refineries using HF for willful, serious or repeat violations of rules designed to prevent fires, explosions and chemical releases, according to U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration data.” Read down in the story to find experiments done by LLNL at a nuclear test site to see what would happen in a release.
  • There was also lots of coverage in the NYT this week on water contamination from fracking: Regulation lax as gas wells’ tainted water hits rivers, Wastewater recycling no cure-all in gas process, and Politics seen to limit E.P.A. as it sets rules for natural gas
  • And in Delaware, Drinking water at risk–”Regulators working for Delaware and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have long claimed that the deep clay layers above the [Potomac] aquifer protected it from the foul waters discharged by chemical and petroleum manufacturers. Those assurances have proved false.
  • Canadian fertilizer and pesticide supplier Univar “is suing the City of Kelowna and its fire department for negligence after [pesticides, fertilizers and glycol] were washed into a local creek following a warehouse fire last summer”; “the company said the lawsuit was filed in its name by its insurance company without its knowledge”

Fires and explosions:

Leaks, spills, and other exposures:

  • Benzene was released from a Shell refinery in Texas “after an equipment failure on a distilling unit”
  • Chlorine was released at a Canexus plant in North Vancouver, Canada; four workers were taken to a local hospital to be treated for exposure
  • Thieves in the U.K. stealing the cab of a tanker opened a valve and released “thousands of gallons” of xylene, which “solidified into a jelly-like substance” and clogged the local sewar system
  • 250 L of sulfuric acid at Organic Lens Manufacturing in Ireland
  • 20 L of nitric acid at an industrial site in the U.K.
  • 20 lbs of ammonia leaked at a DuPont plant in West Virginia
  • A dye in a lab at a Connecticut hospital; no word on what it was beyond “It is a mild irritant”
  • A New York jeweler may have been poisoned by cyanide in his store–”Cyanide is commonly used in the jewelry industry—as an ingredient in cleaning solutions, for example—but [a fire marshal spokesperson] says it is rare for someone to become ill from exposure.”
  • On roads and railways: sodium hydroxide

Author: Jyllian Kemsley

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