Chemical health and safety news from the past few weeks, starting with a couple of cases we’ve been following:
- (Former?) Janssen chemist Ramineh Behbehanian will not face charges for planting tainted juice at a California Starbucks, because analysis showed only vinegar. Authorities originally thought she’d adulterated the juice with rubbing alcohol.
- The family of San Francisco Veterans Affairs researcher Richard Din, who died in 2012 from a lab-contracted illness, has filed a wrongful death suit
And a tweet of the week, from C&EN’s Carmen Drahl at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, quoting Eli Lilly’s Brian Fahie:
— Carmen Drahl (@carmendrahl) June 6, 2013
- Chemjobber interviewed the Chemical Safety Board’s Mary Beth Mulcahy and posted about an Org. Process Res. Dev. paper on runaway reactions
- Chembark found a video of a Major methane demo fail and started a collection of lab manuals
- At in the Pipeline, Derek won’t work with dimethylcadmium:
I’m saddened to report that the chemical literature contains descriptions of dimethylcadmium’s smell. Whoever provided these reports was surely exposed to far more of the vapor than common sense would allow, because common sense would tell you to stay about a half mile upwind at all times. At any rate, its odor is variously described as “foul”, “unpleasant”, “metallic”, “disagreeable”, and (wait for it) “characteristic”, which is an adjective that shows up often in the literature with regard to smells, and almost always makes a person want to punch whoever thought it was useful. We can assume that dimethylcadmium is not easily confused with beaujolais in the blindfolded sniff test, but not much more. So if you’re working with organocadmium derivatives and smell something nasty, but nasty in a new, exciting way that you’ve never quite smelled before, then you can probably assume the worst.
- Allegheny College worked with local emergency responders on a chemical explosion drill
- In the June issue of the Process Safety Beacon, Why can’t I open that valve? (Hint: There might be a good reason why you can’t.)
- On June 25, BioRaft and the Laboratory Safety Institute are hosting a free webinar on How to create a more effective lab safety program
- From the National Academy of Sciences, new Acute exposure guideline levels for selected airborne chemicals
- In Room for Debate at the New York Times: Where OSHA falls short, and why
- Also in the NYT, Where do old cellphones go to die?
- And go check out Poisoned Places: Toxic Air, Neglected Communities, a joint project by NPR and the Center for Public Integrity
- From the Associated Press, Presence of explosive chemicals often kept secret: “Secrecy and shoddy record-keeping have kept the public and emergency workers in the dark about stockpiles of explosive material.”
- Texas prohibits nearly 70 percent of its counties from having a fire code, reports the Dallas Morning News, and “85 percent of the code-prohibited counties have no full-time professional fire department anywhere in the county”
- This takes some serious job dedication: For veteran LAPD diver, tar hunt far worse than sea hunt
- And thankfully no one got hurt going through this: Collector’s bombs, shells, grenades confiscated
- Coming soon to a computer near you: Chemical spillage simulation: “Double check your hazard suit, because you’re part of the Special Chemical Disaster Prevention unit, handling some of the most dangerous materials in the world that are both toxic and very deadly! You’ll need to seek out these materials using a selection of different tools to combat the spills before they cause any harm to any civilians.” Yes, really, it’s a computer game. Costs about $40 USD.
Fires and explosions:
- An explosion and fire at a Teva plant in Israel, possibly from a reactor malfunction, killed one worker and injured 30 more. A year ago, an explosion and fire at Teva subsidiary Pliva in Croatia also killed one worker and injured eight others.
- A flash fire at an Amgen facility in California seriously burned a hazardous waste contractor
- An explosion at an Airgas plant in West Virginia burned two workers, “fifty cylinders of acetylene were believed to be the source of the explosion”
- A hexachlorodislane leak and a spark led to an explosion and fire at Nova-Kem in Illiniois and the evacuation of the town of Seward. One worker was injured. Chlorine tanks at the facility “ended up spilling their load after a safety mechanism sensed the heat from the fire in another part of the building. That release of the chlorine is what prevented a more massive explosion.
- A fire in an alcohol storage tank at California’s O’Neil Vintners and Distillery prompted the evacuation of a neighboring school (the story doesn’t say whether the alcohol was straight alcohol or a beverage of some sort)
- “Phosphorous solid” was the source of a fire in a U.K. high school
Leaks, spills, and other exposures:
- The side of railroad tracks is not where you want to do chemistry: A train derailed in Baltimore, spilling sodium chlorate from one care and terephthalic acid from another, which reacted with each other
- Two workers at a nuclear facility in Australia were exposed to sodium cyanide when “a container holding the chemical spilled on the workers’ legs.” The facility spokesman’s reported assertion that “They’re fine. They’ve been decontaminated. There’s no injuries.” seems a little optimistic, but I don’t know the quantity of the spill, what the workers were wearing, or how quickly NaCN absorbs through skin.
- Boron trifluoride leaked at an Applied Materials/Varian Semiconductor complex in Massachusetts
- One worker was exposed to diborane at a Ford Motor plant in Kentucky
- Quaker Chemical in South Carolina released hydrofluoric acid
- “Mild to medium-strength acids” spilled when a vial overpressurized and exploded in a University of New Orleans chemistry lab
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.