Friday chemical safety round up

Chemical health and safety news from the past couple of weeks:

  • I normally ignore homemade chemical “bombs” of the dry ice or toilet cleaner variety, but I see headlines about them regularly. The CDC has noticed them, too, and discussed them in this week’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report:

    Although unlikely to have the injury patterns associated with high-order explosive denotations, HCB explosions have the potential to result in serious injury. In addition to blast-induced trauma, injured persons can be exposed to the chemicals released from the HCB. The most common injuries reported were respiratory symptoms, burns, and skin irritation, and these are consistent with exposure to the acids or bases frequently used in these devices. Acid and base solutions are corrosive to skin and other tissues, and both form fumes that can irritate respiratory tissues when inhaled. Symptoms associated with inhalation of fumes of acids or bases include irritation of the nose, throat, and larynx; cough; and pulmonary edema (3).

  • Also, don’t dump liquid nitrogen into a pool
  • Via the Pump Handle, a story about a fatality I missed last summer when the round up was on hiatus: Brian Johns died from burns sustained when a seal failed on an ammonia recycling unit at a Dow Chemical plant in Texas (a former Rohm and Haas site). OSHA fined the company $23,000 for several process safety violations. Johns’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit ¬†against Dow and his supervisors in April.
  • Texas to unveil database that will allow residents to view local facilities that hold hazardous materials. But how will the state ensure that the site is up-to-date and accurate?
  • The Helsinki Chemicals Forum “brought top international experts together to discuss on chemicals safety.” See videos and presentations.
  • The U.S. and Canada plan to align their hazard communication standards.
  • Mettler Toledo released a white paper on the ergonomics of pipetting. Repetitive strain injuries, be gone!

On the incident front, yesterday I posted about two fatal incidents in Louisiana.

Other fires and explosions:

  • An explosion at a fireworks factory in Montreal, Canada, killed two people
  • An alcohol fire severely burned two elementary school-aged students and injured another student and an instructor at a summer science camp in Louisiana; “The campers were conducting an experiment in which powdered sugar is converted to carbon, using alcohol as a heating source”
  • A fire in a raw material storage building at Pennsylvania titanium manufacturer Timet caused $3.5 million in damage
  • California’s University of Redlands got to call in hazmat and bomb squad teams to detonte old tert-butoxycarbonyl azide found during stockroom inventory. I’m rather confused by the juxtaposition of “manufactured in 1973” and “in the university’s inventory for about six years.” First, how did it come to be there, 34 years after it was manufactured? And was the last inspection more than six years ago or did they just not care about a shock-sensitive material in previous inventories?
  • Homemade explosives found after New York apartment blast

Other leaks, spills, and other exposures:

  • A sulfuric acid spill at smelter Doe Run in Missouri injured three workers
  • Leaking epoxy material at ChemCast in Illinois resulted in evacuations of a church daycare and nearby residents
  • A hydrochloric acid leak at a DuPont fluoroproduct plant in Kentucky led to a shelter-in-place order
  • A nitric acid spill at Appliance SpaceSystems in California sent two people to hospital and injured several others
  • Nitric acid also spilled at the University of Kentucky

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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