Chemical health and safety news from the past week, plus a few things from further back:
- 4,609 people died in the U.S. last year from work-related injuries, according to a preliminary analysis by the Bureau of Labor Statistics
- Close calls are near disasters, not lucky breaks; also, the 20,001st time, about a massive fertilizer explosion in Oppau, Germany, that killed 500-600 people
- A new lab safety resource from the National Academy of Sciences: Keeping laboratory chemicals safe and secure
- If you wonder why so many people get hurt making meth, Milkshake at Org Prep Daily describes why in Shake and Pray: “The water initiates a vigorous and pretty much uncontrollable reaction of the lithium metal with ammonium nitrate. The solids in ether gradually liquify and become a bottom layer sludge – this all is accompanied by evolution of copious amounts of ammonia and hydrogen. So he shakes this thing by hand and he periodically vents the ammonia by loosening the cap when the plastic bottle bulges up too much.”
- The Federal Advisory Council on Occupational Safety and Health (FACOSH) will hold a public meeting on Oct. 18 in Washington, D.C.
Fires and explosions:
- Solid “sludge-like” chemicals placed in a plastic box self-combusted at a vacant plant site currently being cleaned up in Indiana; the resulting fire and chemical release led to the evacuation of hundreds of nearby residents
- Laboratory chemicals reportedly originated a fire at a secondary school in Guyana
Leaks, spills, and other exposures:
- An update on an incident reported last week that sent a high school teacher and five students to a hospital in Texas: The teacher “was trying to neutralize sodium nitroferricyanide with 50 percent sodium hydroxide when the bad reaction occurred” as the “students worked on a lab experiment to identify proteins and amino acids.” I am intrigued that the story says that the incident was contained to the lab area of the classroom yet firefighters found the teacher and one student in the nurse’s office. Better to send the nurse to the classroom rather than potentially have the teacher and student track something to the nurse’s office, no?
- A bromine release at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut resulted in two people being treated for eye and throat irritation
- Small amounts of nitric acid and sodium hydroxide spilled in a science classroom at a private middle and high school in Connecticut
Not covered (most of the time): meth labs; ammonia leaks; incidents involving floor sealants, cleaning solutions, or pool chemicals; transportation spills; things that happen at recycling centers (dispose of your waste properly, people!); and fires from oil, natural gas, or other fuels.