Chemical health and safety news from the past week:
Things we’re following
- The case against UCLA and Patrick Harran in Sheharbano (Sheri) Sangji’s death: UCLA was scheduled to be arraigned on Thursday, but the case was continued to Feb. 2, the same day as Harran’s arraignment. Chemistry World weighed in this week with What does it take to improve lab safety? and Will Sheri Sangji’s death change safety culture? (related Reddit discussion) while ChemBark discussed making safety training a part of group meetings and ScienceGeist tackled teaching safety to undergrads (related: teaching safety and safety teams)
- Another azide explosion and student injured at the University of Florida: On Monday, C&EN published a safety letter from UF chemistry professor Alan Katritzky on avoiding acid work-up of benzotriazole-1-sulfonyl azide. The concern is that residual sodium azide may convert to hydrazoic acid, which was the likely culprit when a flask exploded and injured a student last fall. On Wednesday, there was another explosion in Katritzky’s lab. Department chair Daniel Talham says that the incident this week involved sodium azide but not benzotriazole-1-sulfonyl azide–the reaction and circumstances were different. Beyond that, they’re still investigating. Adds Talham, “Preliminary investigation determined that appropriate safety procedures and protective equipment were in use, likely significantly mitigating the effects of the explosion.” According to the Gainesville Sun today, the Katritzky lab is currently barred from using sodium azide and the injured student, Khanh Ha, 27, is still hospitalized with injuries to his face, hands, and body.
Other links of note
- It’s Friday the 13th! Chemical Space says I wouldn’t do that new reaction today if I were you
- Washington State adopted a rule to protect healthcare workers from hazardous medications (think pharmacists mixing chemotherapy drugs)
- The Department of Homeland Security allegedly misled Congress about the effectiveness of a nearly five-year-old program that is meant to secure the nation’s chemical facilities against potential terrorist attacks
- The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention released its Guidelines for Safe Work Practices in Human and Animal Medical Diagnostic Laboratories
Fires and explosions
- Is a round-up complete without an entry for Orica’s ammonia planat in Australia? This week, lightening sparked a fire when the plant was venting hydrogen. I really am starting to think that the place is cursed.
- A worker in India was killed when he tried to cut open an industrial waste drum with an electric cutter; the drum exploded and the worker was then (additionally?) injured by the cutter
- A boiler system overheated and caused a fire at the Orgahim alkaline paints and resins plant in Bulgaria
- Something caused a chemical fire in a cabinet at a Micron R&D facility in Boise
- A Carnegie Mellon professor and student used a fire extinguisher to put out a small fire in a chemistry lab: they “completed some tests, cleaned up, put a chemical inside a container and placed the container in a plastic-lined cardboard box. There apparently was some chemical residual on the container and it reacted with the liner or the cardboard to start the box on fire”
- What was sodium metal doing in the sink at an Oregon high school? It sounds like the student who turned on the faucet was lucky, since the reported injuries just involve 12 people being treated for respiratory discomfort.
- Explosions averted: Crystalline picric acid led to the evacuation of a science building at the University of Central Oklahoma and was also found at a former waste management plant in Canada
Leaks, spills, and other exposures
- Denatonium benzoate, which is apparently very bitter and added to consumer products to keep people from ingesting them, at a U.K. warehouse; 23 people were evaluated for respiratory irritation
- Ethyl acetate, methyl ethyl ketone, and other chemicals leaked from water-damaged drums at Fermical, “which specializes in the pharmaceutical industry and had been temporarily closed for about a year”
- Hydrogen fluoride, at Scripps Research Institute in California
- On roads, railways, and shipyards: sulfuric acid (from a rail yard into a creek in Kansas), diisobutylene
Not covered: meth labs; ammonia leaks; incidents involving floor sealants, cleaning solutions, or pool chemicals; and fires from oil, natural gas, or other fuels.