Friday chemical safety round up

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:

Other news:

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.

Author: Jyllian Kemsley

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