I spent much of my week following New Mexico’s Las Conchas wildfire, which caused the city of Los Alamos to evacuate and the adjacent Los Alamos National Laboratory to close. As of this morning, the fire is the largest known in New Mexico history, with more than 103,000 acres burned in a mere five days. Los Alamos and LANL generally appear to be out of danger at this point, but tribal lands to the north are sustaining heavy damage.
New Mexico is also battling two other significant fires: Donaldson, which has burned 73,000 acres since it started on Tuesday, and Pacheco, which has burned 10,000 acres over the last two weeks. Officials are clearly worried that other fires will be sparked by fireworks over the Fourth of July weekend. Governor Susana Martinez says that she does not have the authority to completely ban fireworks state-wide, but she ordered (pdf) state police to increase staffing to help enforce a state ban on fireworks in wildlands as well as any local restrictions. Walmart and grocery store chains Albertson’s and Smith’s have all pulled fireworks from store shelves in the state; Walmart and Albertson’s also evicted vendors from their parking lots.
Which brings me to say: If you plan to use fireworks this weekend, please be careful and don’t hurt yourself, your family, or your community. Perhaps consider watching a professional do it instead? (If you work with fireworks, OSHA has some information for you.)
Other chemical health and safety news from the past week:
- UCSD released a new safety video, this one aimed at undergrads
- Chembark considered the issue of working alone in lab
- More picric acid in Girl Scout first aid kits, in Colorado again and in Massachusetts
- More than half of the hazmat transportation incidents in Canada are due to human error: “Improperly loading, unloading and handling dangerous cargo, drivers losing control of their vehicles, and carelessness and negligence.”
- A wall of a chemistry building collapsed at Sindhu College in India. “Principal B Nag said it was just an accident and college authorities were not responsible for it. ‘The chemistry lab building is old and since the water tank is on the same floor, the place was moist and hence the wall collapsed partly,’ he said.” So it’s not the school’s responsibility to maintain facilities so that walls don’t fall down?
Fires and explosions:
- A lightning strike apparently caused a fire in a hydrochloric acid tank at SiVance in Florida
- A magnesium fire at Olympic Tool & Machine In Pennsylvania injured four, one with severe burns
- A fire at a pesticide-manufacturing factory in India also damaged neighboring buildings
Leaks, spills, and other exposures:
- Chlorine gas was released at a Tyson Foods plant in Arkansas after a chlorine solution was accidentally added to a drum of acid; 300 workers were evacuated, 173 treated for exposure, and at least 45 were admitted to the hospital (two were still hospitalized three days later)
- And more chlorine was released from a leaking canister at an Airgas facility in Florida
- A Notre Dame stduent was splashed in the eye with something–why was he not wearing eye protection?
- On roads, railways, and shipards: an acid used in lotions, fertilizer, liquid asphalt, coal tar oil, sodium hypochlorite, more sodium hypochlorite
Not covered: meth labs; ammonia leaks; incidents involving floor sealants, cleaning solutions, or pool chemicals; and fires from oil, natural gas, or other fuels