I’ll be in Yolo County again today for the end of former University of California, Davis, chemist David Snyder’s preliminary hearing on explosives and firearms charges. Watch Twitter for updates and here on Monday for a recap.
Here’s the chemical health and safety news from the past few weeks:
- The ACS Committee on Chemical Safety released its guidelines on Identifying and Evaluating Hazards in Research Laboratories
- A planned ACS webinar on chemical safety was cancelled because the federal government shutdown put CSB investigator Mary Beth Mulcahy on furlough. The shutdown will delay CSB investigations, such as that into the West, Tex., fertilizer explosion. More than 90% of OSHA inspectors are also furloughed. For more on shutdown effects, see C&EN’s story by Andrea Widener.
- University of California, Los Angeles, chemistry professor Patrick Harran had a court date on Thursday regarding felony charges of labor code violations stemming from the death of Sheharbano (Sheri) Sangji. The status check with the judge resulted in scheduling of another status check for Nov. 20. Let us pause here to thank C&EN’s Michael Torrice for doing the yeoman’s work of attending all these court appearances, even when they last all of 40 seconds.
- Harran “should not be made out to carry the full weight of the accident,” wrote an opinion columnist in the University of Southern California’s Daily Trojan, seemingly missing the fact that the University of California system faced (and settled) charges as well
- My lab makes me sick, wrote Butler University chemistry professor LuAnne McNulty, whose asthma is triggered by volatile organic compounds. She described her use of Skype to get around the problem of trying to mentor students when she can’t enter the lab.
- John at It’s the Rheo Thing really got decked out in PPE, complete with a self-rescue respirator
- Improving respirator masks to put fresh air in reach (how has it taken me until now to learn that there is a National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory? Must arrange to visit sometime. When it’s open again.)
- The October issue of AIChE’s Process Safety Beacon looks at electrical equipment in hazardous areas
- In California, the Air Force wants to transfer a radioactive waste dump to Sacramento: “Mayer’s attitude about state and local officials, and his insistence that the Air Force can bulldoze ahead despite the state’s strict environmental laws, highlights an escalating clash between military officials and local communities over the plight of former bases now being converted for civilian use.”
- The estimate for a proposed uranium processing facility in Tennessee has gone from $600 million to as much as $11.6 billion
- In Southern California, battery recycler Exide continued to violate lead emissions limits, despite being forced to cut back
- OSHA fined aerosol paint manufacturer Fox Valley Systems $262,000 following a March explosion that seriously injured three employees: “Flammable vapors ignited in the production facility, resulting in an explosion and fire that caused extensive damage to the building and the interconnected aerosol-propellant charging rooms” and locked doors impeded exit routes and snow blocked exits, slowing employees from exiting the plant quickly”"
- Federal agencies issued a federal advisory on ammonium nitrate
- EPA withdrew two proposals on chemical safety: adding bisphenol A, polybrominated diphenyl ethers, and eight phthalates on a “chemicals of concern” list and barring chemical makers from claiming chemical identity as confidential business information in EPA submissions
- Chemical disarmament in Syria won’t be easy, writes the New York Times, looking at how difficult it’s been to destroy chemical weapons in the United States: “Everybody forgets that none of these weapons were designed to be peacefully disassembled,” Miguel E. Monteverde, an Army spokesman, noted in an interview. “It was always assumed that they’d be used.”
- The Dow Lab Safety Academy won the 2013 Chemical Engineering & ChemInnovations Award
Fires and explosions:
- An explosion in the hydrogen unit at a Sinclair refinery in Wyoming resulted in a large fire but no injuries
- Several guests at a San Francisco hotel were taken to the hospital after an employee set off a canister of bear repellent (pepper spray, Wikipedia tells me)
- A hydrogen tank “detonated and crashed through a building ceiling twice, once on launch and once on landing” at Utron in Virginia; Utron’s website says it’s a defense contractor with “an exemplary history of researching and developing high-energy innovations for launching masses at hyper velocities”
- Five workers were injured in a fire at a Formosa Plastics plant in Texas
- Molten steel + three containers of a “petroleum-based product” = a fire at Keokuk Steel Castings in Iowa
- Carbon disulfide caught fire at Vanderbilt Chemical when its temperature exceeded its ignition point; an automatic fire-suppression system helped to contain the problem
- A fire engulfed a Danlin chemical plant in Oklahoma, mostly burning methanol
- Two students and a teacher at a Texas middle school were injured from an experiment involving strontium chloride, methanol, and a stick lighter (once again I must ask what is it with teachers, alcohol, and flames?)
Leaks, spills, and other exposures:
- For the “anything is toxic given the right circumstances” file: Massive molasses spill devastates Honolulu marine life
- Ammonia leaks: from a transfer line at Airgas in Mississippi; at a John Deere engineering center in Iowa; from somewhere in Rhode Island during a “routine” installation of a canister; from a Green Giant Fresh Factory in California
- Aniline was released at a Rubicon plant in Louisiana
- Some sort of liquid including “‘trace amounts’ of benzene, benzene compounds and sulfuric acid” was released at a DuPont facility in Texas
- Sulfur dioxide leaked at a shuttered Convoy Containers facility in Ohio
- “A 55-gallon drum of overheated epoxy blew open at a fiberglass supplies business” in San Diego, the heat was due to a reaction with something else
- A University of Washington lab tech suffered burns on his arm when he was reportely moving a two-leater container of hydrochloric acid from a cabinet anda the bottom fell out of the container; he smartly got himself to a safety shower
- Glacial acetic acid spilled at a medical center in California, sending one person for medical evaluation
- Six people were injured at a Texas high school when a canister for an emergency oxygen generator broke and sprayed them with a chemical mixture “comparable to a liquified soda ash material” (anyone know how these things work?)
- Spilled formaldehyde resulted in the evacuation of 1,800 students from a different high school in Texas
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