Chemical health and safety news from the past two weeks:
- Sigh. “They were energetic materials that are extremely sensitive to heat, shock and friction, which makes them dangerous, but not toxic in the way the word ‘chemical’ might suggest,” said a Massachusetts Department of Fire Services spokeswoman regarding the detonation of chemicals used to make fireworks. Because “chemical” and “toxic” are interchangeable.
- Don’t forget to take the lab safety survey
- See Arr Oh got to try on a Level A hazmat suit: “it’s like walking through heavy snow, with both dexterity and visual impairment”
- How do you get faculty to pay attention and prioritize something? Make it count in tenure and promotion decisions.
- The latest chemistry in its element podcast is on potassium nitrate: “The saltpetre men of the 17th century could be described as the first biochemists. But they could also be described as a ‘rowdy and undesirable’ lot, hated and feared for the disruption and distress they caused in their search for their precious namesake.”
- If you attend a festival for “Large and Dangerous Rocket Ships,” should you be surprised (and sue) if you get hurt?
- Chemjobber discovered P.G. Urben’s sense of humor in “Bretherick’s Handbook of Reactive Chemical Hazards”
- What do Safety Zone readers think: Is the small print for concentration on Aldrich bottles a safety hazard?
- A report from Dow to Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection details the damage done to storage tanks of ethyl acrylate and butyl acrylate after lightning struck them and started a fire on May 16
- OSHA cited Great Lakes Chemical for 18 safety violations and fined the company $122,000 after a fire led to release of bromine at a facility in Arkansas
- OSHA and NIOSH issued a hazard alert regarding silica exposure of workers in hydraulic fracturing operations
- The American Society of Safety Engineers named Erike Young as the 2012 Edgar Monsanto Queeny Safety Professional of the Year. Young is director of environment, health, and safety in the University of California Office of the President.
Fires and explosions:
- “A spark in a room full of alcohol-based chemicals” resulted in a fire at a chemical distribution warehouse in West Virginia
- A bucket of hexane caught fire at battery company Seeo in California
- An explosion at a Univeristy of Texas Institute for Advanced Technology lab blew apart the building and injured a passing motorist; the lab “does research on high-velocity projectiles and their impact upon targets” for the U.S. Army; “the explosion happened when equipment failed and gas was released from a pressurized line”
- People in the University of Illinois Advanced Transportation & Research Engineering Laboratory “mixing solvents and other chemicals in an aluminum container and heating it with an electric burner when the mixture ignited”, causing a fire and an estimated $10,000 in damage
Leaks, spills, and other exposures:
- In Israel, “Some 100 tons of the peroxide-based substance leaked into an organic compound, setting off a chemical reaction that created a highly flammable substance.” Responders cooled down the material and diluted it, preventing the fire.
- More than 28,700 lbs of benzene were released in a naphtha spill at an ExxonMobil plant in Louisiana
- Magnesium phosphide was released from a ConAgra mill in Minnesota
- Silicon tetrachloride and trichlorosilane were released from REC Silicon in Connecticut
- Hydrogen sulfide was released when a sulfur-water tank ruptured at a ConocoPhillips refinery in California
- Methanol spilled at a 3M facility in Connecticut, another story says it was 900 gals
- Less than a gallon of “ammonia hydroxide” (ammonium hydroxide?) spilled at New Hampshire’s Seabrook Station nuclear power plant, leading to a declaration of an “unusual event” and evacuation of the first floor of the administration building
- Nearly 300 gals of sulfuric acid spilled at a self-storage facility in Texas
- A 100 mL bottle of sulfuric acid spilled at a high school in New York
- A Los Angeles high school teacher mixed up nitric and sulfuric acids, resulting in her, another adult, and a student being treated for chemical exposure
- A malathion spill in a backyard shed caused a shelter-in-place order for a Texas neighborhood
Not covered (most of the time): meth labs; ammonia leaks; incidents involving floor sealants, cleaning solutions, or pool chemicals; transportation spills; and fires from oil, natural gas, or other fuels.