Friday chemical safety round-up

Chemical health and safety news from the past week:

  • Over at Chemical Space, a mysterious white powder cushioning trimethylsilyl cyanide turned out to be sodium carbonate, and I’m with David in wondering why the company didn’t identify the chemical anywhere in or on the packaging
  • David also discussed the laboratory Safety Chain: “If the management doesn’t care to push safety issues (or just gives lip service) then the rank and file will cut the corners they can.”
  • After the spate of nitric acid waste explosions this fall, Chemistry World’s “Chemistry in its Element” podcast on nitric acid seems timely
  • The Center for Chemical Process Safety released the December issue of “The Process Safety Beacon”: “You should have more than one barrier between a hazardous material and the outside environment or the workplace. A single leaking or accidentally opened valve should not result in a dangerous release of hazardous material.”
  • Honeywell and J.R. Simplot are developing a fertilizer that is similar to ammonium nitrate but without the explosive potential: “Sulf-N 26 is made with a patented Honeywell process that chemically fuses ammonium sulfate, which acts as a fire retardant, and ammonium nitrate to produce a stable molecule that delivers nitrogen to crops.”
  • A West Virginia science panel announced its findings on toxicity of perfluorooctanoic acid, known as C8: the panel determined “a ‘probable link’ between C8 and high blood pressure among pregnant women, but no such link between exposure to the chemical and other reproductive effects; the panel is part of a settlement between DuPont and local residents regarding C8-contaminated water supplies
  • Cleaning up California’s Wild West: EPA takes on polluted mercury mine in San Benito ghost town: “Forty gallons a minute, 21 million gallons a year. It bubbles and gurgles across the landscape, a bright orange toxic brew, nearly as corrosive as battery acid, teeming with mercury, aluminum, iron and nickel, the legacy of a long-abandoned mine, relentlessly pouring into nearby streams” and eventually San Francisco Bay.
  • Massive WWII bomb successfully defused in Germany; lack of rain caused the Rhine river’s water level to fall, exposing a British 1.8 ton bomb (and a U.S. 275-pound bomb), 45,000 residents of Koblenz were evacuated
  • Lead from old U.S. batteries sent to Mexico raises risks
  • Singapore’s Chemic Industries was fined $154,000 for an incident in which four workers died from acid burns and their supervisor was injured while cleaning heat exchangers

Fires and explosions:

  • A flash fire injured four workers at Polymer Partners in Kentucky, “three of the workers suffered burn injuries and the fourth needed treatment for smoke inhalation”; state labor officials cited the company for unsafe work conditions by state labor officials several times in 2004-2008
  • A fire at FMC BioPolymer in Maine was located in the “alcohol room” for carrageenan processing and probably started when an alcohol pump overheated; the company’s automatic sprinkler system minimized damage

Leaks, spills, and other exposures:

Not covered: meth labs; ammonia leaks; incidents involving floor sealants, cleaning solutions, or pool chemicals; and fires from oil, natural gas, or other fuels

Author: Jyllian Kemsley

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  1. Thanks for the double mention!

  2. “After the spate of nitric acid waste explosions this fall, Chemistry World’s “Chemistry in its Element” podcast on nitric acid seems timely”

    A fire once occured in a laboratory where I worked when someone disposed of some mostly-dried silica from a column through which a nitric acid solution had been filtered into a general lab “solids hazardous waste” container that had contents like dirty paper towels and such. The acid managed to set the paper on fire. Fortunately, the fire was easily contained in this case but we were lucky that someone was present.