Friday chemical safety round-up

Chemical health and safety news from the past two weeks:

Fires and explosions:

Leaks, spills, and other exposures:

  • Returning to an old report: A tetrahydrofuran spill at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, sounds like something of a freak accident. According to the school’s chemical hygiene officer, Jeff Zebrowski, a researcher was removing a container of the solvent from the bottom of a storage cabinet, his or her shoulder bumped into and lifted up a shelf higher in the cabinet, dislodging it from its supports and sending its contents crashing down. The shelves just sit on the supports with nothing to anchor them in place, which in hindsight seems like a problem, but neither the school nor the cabinet manufacturer has ever heard of this happening before. Zebrowski is now experimenting with rubber shims to hold the shelves down on the supports.
  • Acetylene tetrabromide leaked at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
  • At Dover Chemical in Ohio, a worker was loosening an overhead pipe when chloroform, carbon tetrachloride and paraffin spilled down his front. “When firefighters arrived, other employees had the man in a shower, where he was being decontaminated.” He appeared to suffer “minor chemical burns” around his face and head.
  • Demolition work at a former BASF plant in Pennsylvania ruptured an old pipeline, causing a spill of liquid vinyl acetate
  • A worker fell into a reactor pool when trying to retrieve a flashlight at California’s San Onofre nuclear power plant; “He was wearing all of the appropriate safety equipment, including a life preserver vest” and “did not suffer significant radiation exposure”
  • Nearly 60 L of “a corrosion inhibitor for alcohols and gasolines containing oxygenates” spilled at a Sucrogen bioethanol plant in Australia
  • Also in Australia, nearly a liter of mercury spilled at a sugar mill, and several additional containers were collected for disposal
  • High levels of cadmium were detected in the Liujiang River, which provides drinking water for Liuzhou, China; seven chemical plant executives have now been detained in the incident

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

Author: Jyllian Kemsley

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1 Comment

  1. Speaking of supports for shelves in flammable cabinets, I have experienced two incidents of their failure during my career, both due to apparent corrosion and fatigue. I am sure many of our labs have cabinets which are older than many of the workers using them. Metal under stress, especially if exposed for decades to random assortments of chemicals, will eventually fail.