First up, CENtral sSience is hosting a food science blog carnival next week! If you’ve got a favorite topic you’d like to write about out and no blog to put it on, we’ll be happy to host. See linked post for details.
Now back to our regularly-scheduled (if somewhat irregularly written) chemical health and safety news from the past couple of weeks:
- Mythbusters is breaking out hazmat suits to explore some “Breaking Bad” chemistry, in particular the first-season scene involving use of hydrofluoric acid to dissolve a body. The episode will air in the spring.
- Redditors discussed lab accidents. The first response, to quote Derek Lowe, is like “the second law of thermodynamics come to take vengeance, with the entropy increasing as you go along.”
- Several chemistry bloggers were not impressed by Gizmodo’s “How to Use Basic Chemistry to Scare the Hell Out of Your Neighbours”
- Chemjobber posted about the PUREX process to extract uranium and plutonium from spent nuclear fuel: “There’s something amusing about a situation in which rocket fuel gets added to nuclear waste to generate a ‘relatively stable’ explosive waste product.”
- Joe Schwarcz, director of the Office for Science & Society at Canada’s McGill University, wrote about the Sangji case in the Montreal Gazette: “many chemists realize that neither UCLA nor Harran are unique examples of negligence in terms of safety, and recognize that their own closets may harbour skeletons.”
- UC posted a video of its “Enhancing a Culture of Safety Through the Development of a Chemical Safety Committee” webinar. Next up: “Wear Your Lab Coat! Changes in UCLA’s PPE Policy and How Researchers Responded,” Tuesday, Nov. 13, noon Pacific/3 p.m. Eastern.
- The chemistry department at England’s Keele University is embarking on a project dubbed CLEARS for Chemistry Laboratory Engagement and Assessment of Risk and Safety:
We want to investigate ways in which students learn to think about laboratory safety. We want answers to the eternal question of why disposable nitrile gloves bestow the students with superpowers able to resist all chemicals. We want to figure out why half the class wants to put the aqueous sodium chloride in the halogenated waste. We want to investigate the misconceptions, the chemistry misconceptions, that underpin some of the frequent safety mistakes we see in the lab. We want a safety system that encourages students to think and evaluate rather than demanding simple compliance with rules but we can’t have that until we have a better idea of what on earth goes on in the minds of students when they are lurking in the laboratory.
- In the November issue of AIChE’s Process Safety Beacon, a challenge: Can you find the safety problem?
- Some general principles of fume hoods, by Labconco
- Assorted federal and California agencies conducted intensive hazardous materials inspections at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports, in an Oct. 31 operation dubbed “Operation Hazoween”
- Jury awards $85 million to U.S. soldiers exposed to hexavalent chromium in Iraq
- Los Alamos National Lab is preparing to demolish and dispose of the enclosures used to cover excavation and clean-up of a 1940s-era waste disposal site
- The U.S. Navy agreed to pay a $38,500 penalty to EPA to settle hazardous waste violations at Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland
Fires and explosions:
- An explosion and fire at Neptune Technologies & Bioresources, in Canada, killed two people, injured 19 more, and ruined the plant; the plant had 15,000 liters of acetone on site and the cause of the fire is being investigated
- A fire destroyed a paint manufacturing unit in India after resin reportedly spilled on the floor and an electric pump sparked
- The cause of a fire at battery recycler Inmetco, located in Pennsylvania, is still unknown
- A fire at Morey’s Glass and Metals in Colorado started when “a piece of metal bounced from the welder’s work station” into a pile of magnesium scraps, which caused a “spectacular, super white” fire. City employees dumped dirt on the fire to smother it.
- An experiment involving carbon disulfide and stearic acid started a fire in a University of Akron, Ohio, soils research lab; two undergraduate students, a graduate student, a professor, and a university police officer were treated at local hospitals, although the story doesn’t say for what
- Oil overheated and caused a fire when the temperature control on equipment failed in a University of Wisconsin, Madison, medical sciences lab
Leaks, spills, and other exposures:
- A failed valve allowed three types of acid to mix in an aluminum drum and then eat through the drum, causing an evacuation from a Rolls-Royce facility in Indiana
- A hydrochloric Acid spill from a Dallas Group storage tank in Texas injured nine people, including four firefighters
- Release of an unknown hazardous material sickened 200 people in New Mexico and closed the Santa Teresa border crossing and county airport
- A Pennsylvania high school teacher was not wearing protective equipment and was burned when a potassium nitrate + sugar demonstration exploded
- A reaction that sounds like sodium metal + water resulted in evacuation of a building at Erie Community College in New York; four people were evaluated for chemical exposure
- Workers at an Apple iPad manufacturer face chemical smells, unpaid overtime
- Move your generator out of the garage, says the Consumer Products Safety Commission, which notes that “Since Hurricane Sandy hit, more than a dozen people in the Northeast have died from carbon monoxide, or CO, poisonings from generators, according to news accounts.”
Not covered (usually): 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.