Catching up on a few weeks of chemical health and safety news:
- First, a lab clean-up haiku from the Baran lab blog:
Deep beneath the sash
BBr3 oozes forth.
- A study of flash point values on Safety Data Sheets shows that “there were significant variations between the disclosed and measured flash point values. Overall, more than one third of the products had flash points lower than that disclosed on the MSDS.”
- From It’s the Rheo Thing, the Added dangers of a fire at a plastics plant and Another monomer John won’t work with
- From the Pump Handle, on the Chemical Safety Improvement Act, Better band-aids or systemic change?
- From Restricted Data, the Third Core’s Revenge, on the havoc wreaked by the plutonium core that was prepared but never used to bomb Japan in World War II
- What really went on at Area 51?
When workers at Area 51 first came to me in the 1990s, they described how the government had placed discarded equipment and hazardous waste in open trenches the length of football fields, then doused them with jet fuel and set them on fire. The highly toxic smoke blowing through the desert base was known as “London fog” by workers. Many came down with classic skin and respiratory illnesses associated with exposure to burning hazardous waste. A chief aim of the lawsuits was to discover exactly what the workers had been exposed to so they could get appropriate medical care.
- Wal-Mart reached a settlement with OSHA that includes addressing exposure to workers to cleaning chemicals
- OSHA also issued a final rule “that will require all federal agencies to submit their OSHA-required injury and illness data to the Bureau of Labor Statistics every year. This data will allow OSHA to analyze the injuries and illnesses that occur among the more than two million federal agency workers and develop training and inspection programs to respond to the hazards identified.”
- Continued repercussions of the Chevron refinery fire in Richmond, Calif., including lots of lawsuits
- Crews rush to clean up former Cold War rocket test site in California, although I question using “rush” in the story headline given that the mess stems from a 1959 nuclear accident
- Chemical drums found on Okinawa likely contained military maintenance shop and hospital waste, not Agent Orange
Fires and explosions:
- An explosion at Turkish Mechanical & Chemical Industry Corp.’s gunpowder factory in Turkey killed two workers and injured sixteen others; the subsequent fire spread to adjacent fields
- A fire at hazardous waste company Perma-Fix in Georgia “started as employees were mixing chemicals,” including acetone, although the cause of the fire is still being investigated; two employees were still hospitalized five days after the fire
- Something sparked an ethanol fire at a Kinder Morgan plant in Louisiana, one worker was hospitalized
- A fertilizer tank at Gulf Sulphur in Florida caught fire twice in a week, resulting in the tank being emptied of sulfur for a thorough inspection
Leaks, spills, and other exposures:
- In Louisiana, a train derailment resulted in cars leaking lubricant oil, sodium hydroxide, and dodecanol; cars containing vinyl chloride were damaged but didn’t leak. Approximately 250 people were evacuated from homes in the area.
- Acrolein leaked at a Dow Chemical plant in Louisiana
- Hydrochloric acid spilled from a 55-gal drum at Rockwater Energy Solutions and 200 gal more spilled at metal-salts provider Blue Line, both in Texas
- Styrene spilled from a 55-gal drum at Hi-Lite Markings in New York
- Adhesives manufacturer H.B. Fuller in Michigan released isocyanite from “a 3,000-pound pressurized container”
- A 55-gal drum of 50% hydrogen peroxide “began to have a chemical reaction” and was offgassing at a Kansas wastewater treatment plant
- Ammonia leaked at C&S Wholesale Grocers in Maryland and another 50 lbs vented through a pressure release valve at a Pennsylvania dairy, paramedics treated 17 people and took 11 to hospitals
- A lightning strike at Intercontinental Terminals in Louisiana resulted in release of butadiene
- “An undetermined amount” of mercury spilled at a maintenance shop behind a hospital in Idaho; mercury also spilled at a hopsital in the Philippines
- Termite exterminators turned up a glass jar of sodium cyanide buried under a home in California
Not covered (usually): meth labs; 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