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Friday chemical safety round up

Chemical health and safety news from the past few weeks:

  • In January’s Process Safety Beacon, corrosion under insulation, “which occurs due to water under insulation or fireproofing”
  • AIChE’s Spring Meeting and 10th Global Congress on Process Safety will be held in New Orleans at the end of March
  • BioRAFT’s is hosting a seminar at the end of January on Student Involvement in Improving the Culture of Safety in Academic Laboratories, looks like in collaboration with the University of Minnesota
  • The Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board’s proposal for a new regulatory approach to refinery safety was derailed when two board members voted against the recommendation
  • A California hazardous waste transporter was sentenced to serve 120 days in jail and three years’ probation on six felony charges of unlawful storage, transportation, and disposal of hazardous waste; he was also fined $7,500 and ordered to pay $228,000 in restitution
  • And BNSF Railway is to pay $140,000 for a 2012 spill of phenol, cresylic acid, and other corrosive chemicals near the port of Los Angeles
  • A clinical pharmacist at California Pacific Medical Center is suing UI Pharmaceuticals for injuries she claims she suffered when unpacking a box of sodium chlorite vials destined for a clinical trial
  • Lake Tahoe fireworks violate the Clean Water Act, according to a lawsuit
  • California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control is hoping for a funding increase of $4.5 million “to fix the state’s hazardous waste tracking system, its permitting program and the way it collects money from polluters who have walked away from contaminated land“
  • U.S. spent nuclear fuel storage in pools remains safe, members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission say
  • Germany finds an average of 2,000 tons of buried WWII munitions annually
  • The export and destruction of the most dangerous materials in Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile has begun

Fires and explosions:

  • A heat exchanger at a Mitsubishi Materials plant in Japan exploded during cleaning, possibly from exposing a chemical to air, killing five workers and injuring twelve others
  • Fire gutted two chemical factories in India. In one, “while methanol was being unloaded from a tanker, a spark occurred which set afire 12 drums loaded with chemicals. This in turn blasted two reactors.” In the other, “the packing unit of Hetero Pharma in Polepally SEZ went up in flames reportedly due to electric short circuit.” No one was hurt in either.
  • A fire at a Malaysian chemical company reportedly started when a bottle of “nitrite acid” exploded
  • “Cleaning solvents used to sterilize equipment caused a chemical reaction that spawned a flash fire” at Amgen, injuring two workers
  • Leaking nitric acid was reportedly the cause of a fire at Avantor Performance Materials in Kentucky
  • An acetone leak led to a fire at a U.S. Paint warehouse in Missouri; one worker was injured
  • Some sort of explosion in an enclosure used for filling or analysis of gas cylinders at an Air Liquide site in Pennsylvania caused extensive damage to equipment, but no one was injured
  • A fire at ERG Environmental Services in Michigan may have started during the transfer of hazardous materials
  • A pyrophoric metallic compound left in a hood ignited, causing a fire at Isle Chem Research and Development in New York
  • A contractor installing some sort of compressed gas line in a Malaysian school lab suffered serious burns in an explosion believed to be caused by a leak from a gas cylinder

Leaks, spills, and other exposures:

  • The co-owner of a New York lumber company died from chemical exposure after something reacted in a drum
  • For up-to-date info on the 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol spill affecting West Virginia’s drinking water, see the West Virginia Gazette, both its news stories and its Sustained Outrage blog
  • 100 gal of “sodium hydroxide chlorine” spilled at a dairy processing plant in North Carolina
  • Diethyl ether and cyclohexane leaked from Ohio’s Kraton Polymers into a nearby creek
  • An ammonia leak shut down a Cargill pork plant in Iowa; two workers were taken to the hospital
  • Nitric acid + sulfuric acid + something organic caused an exploding waste incident at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, in Germany; one student was hit by flying glass and may have a lung embolism from breathing fumes and one firefighter suffered a “chemical eye injury”
  • Chlorine dioxide released at Mentor Biologics in Wisconsin; three workers were treated for exposure
  • Uncontained mercury, lead paint, and asbestos dust forced he San Francisco State University’s science building to close temporarily

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

Friday chemical safety round up

Chemical health and safety news since Thanksgiving:

Instead of tweet, a quote from a comment on Chemjobber’s post about high school chemistry demonstration accidents

Yesterday I went and filled out the paperwork to teach Chemistry at the community college across the street as an adjunct. I was required to watch a 25 minute CD on safety. The sound did not work on the CD. I went and told the person that I was filling out the paperwork about the problem the CD

She said “Oh, dont worry about it”.

  • Remember that Nitrile gloves do not provide universal protection!
  • ‘Tis the season for Christmas tree fires; here’s a nice graphic on holiday decor safety. Also, there are some lovely chemistrees out in the twitterverse!
  • December’s AIChE Process Safety Beacon covers the hazards of strong oxidizers
  • Miss BioRaft’s webinar on “Proactive EHS Management and Communications”? Here’s the recording.
  • In OSHA news, whistleblowers can now file complaints online and the Labor Department would like public comment on agency standards to improve chemical safety
  • Rising caseload, fewer Labor Department judges triggers painful mix for suffering laborers
  • OSHA no match for workplace dangers that kill thousands
  • Routine labor violators receive billions in federal contracts
  • Don’t we want to reveal the good news about workplace safety?
  • High bladder cancer rate shrouds New York plant
  • Nuclear weapons clean-up disputes heat up in, South Carolina and Washington state
  • It will take an international effort and an Italian port to get Syria’s chemical weapons out to the U.S. MV Cape Ray for destruction

Skipping the incidents for time reasons, will start fresh with those in January. Happy holidays!

Friday chemical safety round up

Chemical health and safety news from the past few weeks:

Court watch

  • On Nov. 20, UCLA chemistry professor Patrick Harran had a status check with the judge regarding felony charges of labor code violations that led to the death of researcher Sheharbano (Sheri) Sangji. The result of that status check was another status check scheduled for Jan. 10, 2014. Harran’s preliminary hearing concluded on April 26. We’re going on two years since charges were filed on Dec. 27, 2011, and five years since the Dec. 29, 2008, fire.
  • On Nov. 1, former UC Davis chemist David Snyder was arraigned on felony charges of reckless disposal of hazardous waste, possession of a destructive device or explosive, possession of materials with intent to make a destructive device, and possession of firearms on university property. The charges relate to an explosion in his campus apartment nearly one year ago. Snyder’s preliminary hearing concluded on Oct. 10. Snyder is scheduled for a trial-setting conference on March 17, 2014, and a jury trial to start on March 24, 2014.

Tweets of the month from @Free_Radical1:

Other items of interest

  • The president-elect of ACS, Diane Grob Schmidt, is currently the chair of the Division of Chemical Health & Safety
  • NIOSH released new recommendations for controlling worker exposure to nanomaterials
  • BioRAFT will hold a webinar on Proactive EHS Management & Communications on Dec. 12
  • Residents near an Allenco Energy oil field in Southern California have been complaining for three years about fumes from the site. At Sen. Barbara Boxer’s request, EPA investigators visited the site in October. “I’ve been to oil and gas production facilities throughout the region, but I’ve never had an experience like that before,” [EPA regional administrator Jared] Bumenfeld said. “We suffered sore throats, coughing and severe headaches that lingered for hours.” No word on what’s happened since.
  • Also in California, state regulators are supposed to match hazardous material origin paperwork with what arrives at disposal sites. They don’t. “These so-called lost loads include more than 20,000 tons of lead, a neurotoxin; 520 tons of benzene, a carcinogen; and 355 tons of methyl ethyl ketone, a flammable solvent some in the industry call ‘methyl ethyl death.’” (I’m curious to know what chemists think of that nickname. It’s flammable, yes, but it’s not ranked category 1 for any GHS hazard class.)
  • And, er, ALSO in California, a waste mystery: “more than 100 metric tons of the banned pesticide DDT and industrial compounds known as polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, have vanished from one of the country’s most hazardous sites, almost a 90% drop in just five years. Scientists are at a loss to explain the decline across the 17-square-mile site, which sits about 200 feet below the ocean surface and two miles off the Los Angeles County coast.” The chemicals wound up there from industrial waste dumped into sewers.

Fires and explosions

  • A Sinopec oil pipeline in China ruptured, then “oil that entered local rain drainage pipes exploded“; so far reports say that 35 people have died and 166 are injured MONDAY UPDATE: CNN reported late Friday that 44 people were killed and at least another 135 were injured
  • An explosion and fire in a cracking unit at a Chevron refinery in Mississippi killed operator Tonya Graddy
  • A massive fire at a Southern Energy facility in Tennessee seems to have started when a methanol tank overflowed and something sparked
  • “Accidental ignition” was reportedly the cause of an explosion at Aerojet Rocketdyne in California; one employee is hospitalized
  • An employee “moving chemicals” may have caused a spark that led to a fire at Chemical Technology in Michigan; no one was injured but homes, a school, and other businesses were evacuated

Leaks, spills, and other exposures

  • A 20,000-gal tank of liquid…something…overpressurized and launched itself through the roof of American Vinyl Company in Florida; one employee died and was found covered in a yellow liquid, while five others were injured
  • More than a pound of mercury spilled onto the ground and into a deep well at an Archer Daniels Midland site in Iowa, “when a contractor was pulling a submersible pump from the well and the mercury seal in the pump broke”
  • Sulfuric acid leaked from a Solvay plant in California, the cause was a malfunctioning scrubber; 13 people in the area were treated for nose and throat irritation and vomiting
  • Chlorine dioxide leaked at Nucor Steel in Arkansas; 18 employees and contractors were treated for exposure
  • Two workers at dental implant manufacturer Hiossen in Pennsylvania were pouring nitric acid from one container into another when some sort of reaction occurred; the workers were wearing gloves but no other PPE, and suffered burns to their airways and upper bodies
  • Gluteraldehyde spilled at an office building in Texas; the chemical was possibly intended to disinfect health care equipment that cannot be heat sterilized

University incidents

  • Five University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, students got to experience safety showers after a plastic waste container ruptured, likley from “nitric acid mixing with a reducing agent to produce a nitrogen oxide gas“; two containers of ammonium hydroxide also broke
  • A mixture of ammonia and sulfuric acid spilled at the University of Connecticut; two students were evaluated for exposure
  • A Syracuse University student dropped a bottle of ethylenediamine and got an emergency shower and trip to the hospital for evaluation
  • A Melbourne University chemical engineering student “was mixing chemicals when a glass container exploded in front of him“; he suffered cuts to his face and arms

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

What’s that ‘bright orange’ chemical?

…so asked See Arr Oh last week, regarding Carol Anne Bond’s case before the Supreme Court. Bond tried to poison her husband’s mistress. For her efforts, she wound up convicted of violating the Chemical Weapons Convention(*). NPR seems to have caught See Arr Oh’s attention with this:

Bond stole toxic chemicals from the chemical manufacturing company where she worked and ordered other chemicals over the Internet. She combined the chemicals into a compound that is potentially lethal in small amounts — and is also bright orange. Bond spread the toxic material on her rival’s mail, mailbox, front doorknob, car door and other surfaces.

But because of the orange color, the mistress, Myrlinda Haynes, easily spotted the chemicals and avoided any injury except a thumb burn.

See Arr Oh then went hunting through the SCOTUS brief to see what Bond actually used:

She purchased some potassium dichromate (a chemical commonly used in printing photographs) from Amazon.com, and stole a bottle of 10, 10-chloro-10-H-phenoxarsine (an arsenic-based chemical) from her employer. Petitioner knew the chemicals were irritants and believed that, if Haynes touched them, she would develop an uncomfortable rash.

But our intrepid blogger still has a question:

What I haven’t been able to figure out from the stories or briefings is whether she intended the combination of two potentially poisonous, irritant substances to function apart, or to perform some sort of solid-phase oxidation to, for example, phenoxarsine oxide (a known antimicrobial compound).

Thoughts, anyone?

(*) Whether the case is an appropriate use of the Chemical Weapons Convention is why the case is before the Supreme Court.

Friday chemical safety round up

Chemical health and safety news from the past week:

  • It’s the Rheo Thing shared a new poster intended to encourage employees to wear eye protection. Think it’ll work?
  • A chemist with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons talked to C&EN about the organization’s work and Nobel Peace Prize
  • The National Academy of Sciences’ publication “Improving the Health, Safety, and Well-Being of Young Adults” looks like it could be useful reading for those in charge of laboratories in which young adults work
  • OSHA proposed fines for the West fertilizer tragedy: $118,300
  • The American Industrial Hygiene Assocation and Society for Chemical Hazard Communication has developed a new SDS and Label Authoring Registry and credentialing program for professionals who specialize in authoring safety data sheets and labels
  • In China, a court sentenced people to as much as five years in jail for a January incident in which a petroleum resin spilled into a creek, polluting water supplies

Fires and explosions:

  • For those who didn’t see the updates in the comments last week, the Dow/Rohm and Haas worker burned in a trimethylindium fire last week died; Dow and OSHA are investigating, but not CSB (even though the federal government shutdown is now over, CSB Managing Director Daniel Horowitz tells me that CSB likes to have investigators on scene within 24 to 48 hours of an incident)
  • There were several fires in India, at Dhansiri Petro Chemicals, involving a heat chamber; at a Muthu Agency chemical storehouse; and at a facility repackaging polyvinyl chloride
  • In South Africa, an explosion at Rolfe Laboratories injured thirty-five people
  • Smoldering ore tailings created “a noxious chemical cloud” at Global Metal Technology in Washington state

Leaks, spills, and other exposures:

  • 10 gal of something only identified as “TCIR-ZR8690PB” and toxic at chemical distributor RinChem in Salt Lake City. Supposedly it’s some sort of resin used in manufacturing flash drives.
  • Nitrous oxide combined with carbon dioxide leaked at Cuisine Innovations in New Jersey; 30 people were hospitalized for exposure
  • Phenol spilled at a pharmacy in Maine, sending three employees to the hospital
  • A leak from a chile plant in New Mexico left workers complaining of “watery eyes and a chemical taste in their mouths”
  • Montana Tech called for a hazmat team “after university staff noticed Monday morning that a cabinet containing various bottled chemicals had crashed to the floor and spilled some of the chemicals”

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

Friday chemical safety round up

Chemical health and safety news from the past week. I’ll probably have fewer incidents than usual while the federal government is shut down and the Chemical Safety Board isn’t updating its accidents feed.

Tweet of the week:

  • Chemjobber discussed backups on backups on backups on backups to handle concerns of a runaway reaction at industrial scale
  • Miss the BioRAFT webinar on “Changes to UCLA’s Laboratory Safety Program: Are We Safer?” See the recording here.
  • The National Academy of Sciences published a new report, Acute exposure guideline levels for selected airborne chemicals, volume 15
  • 100 specialists to carry out tricky Syria disarmament. Godspeed, all.
  • Federal shutdown effects on the Chemical Safety Board
  • Austerity at OSHA, the effects of declining resources (separate from the shutdown)
  • Titanium bullets, rocket sleds, and C-4: How the U.S. tested the safety of nuclear batteries
  • A U.K. company, Personnel Hygiene Services, was fined $240,000 for an incident in which three employees were seriously burned when 150 aerosol cans were put in a shredder; “the employees were ‘caught in a fireball” and “PHS had no procedure for checking the contents of boxes of waste materials delivered to the site”
  • In Connecticut, chemist, businessman, and pilot Joseph Callahan called the police about a possible break-in at his home. Investigators subsequently found “274 guns, more than 200 of them rifles — all legally owned, according to police — as well as a cache of ammunition, explosives and chemicals.” Callahan was subsequently charged with “11 counts of illegal possession of explosives, one count of manufacturing bombs and six counts of first-degree reckless endangerment.” Also, “Mr. Callahan has agreed to be responsible for the cost of removal and destruction of any items directed to be removed either by the fire department or [the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection,” his attorney said.

Fires and explosions:

  • An employee working alone in a Rohm and Haas lab in Massachusetts received “serious burns covering half of his body including his face and arms” from some sort of lab explosion
  • In Australia, a grass fire led to the destruction of Viscount plastics factories
  • In India, a fire broke out at a Defense Research and Development Organization lab, the facilty “is the DRDO’s oldest weapons testing facility in the country” and was set up in 1894; “the explosion left all the explosives int he magazine completely gutted. However, the roof of the magazine was intact. Only the doors were ripped apart.”
  • In Ireland, a bomb squad blew up a container of dinitrophenylhydrazine found in a school laboratory

Leaks, spills, and other exposures:

  • 4,500 gal of hydrochloric acid spilled but was contained in a holding area at a Continental Teves plant in North Carolina
  • Avago Technologies in Colorado had a “minor” spill of hydrochloric acid
  • A student at the University of Edinburgh, in Scotland, was splashed in the face with “benzene bromide” (benzyl bromide?)
  • A Massachusetts homeowner “dropped chemicals on Saturday while removing them for safe disposal,” a vapor cloud ensued and since one of the containers may have contained cyanide, five houses were evacuated

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

#DavidSnyder ordered to trial in UC Davis explosives case

The preliminary hearing for former University of California, Davis chemist David Snyder concluded on Oct. 4. Yolo County Superior Court Judge David Reed determined that there was enough evidence to send Snyder to trial on 17 felony counts of reckless disposal of hazardous waste, possession of a destructive device or explosive, possession of materials with intent to make a destructive device, and possession of firearms on university property. The charges stem from a January explosion in Snyder’s campus apartment.

The preliminary hearing began on July 30 and was supposed to continue on Sept. 6 but was postponed to Oct. 4. In the first part of the hearing, deputy district attorney Martha Holzapfel called eight witnesses, the last of whom was Jason Winger, a West Sacramento police sergeant and member of the Yolo County bomb squad. Holzapfel completed direct questioning of Winger on July 30, and the hearing resumed on Oct. 4 with cross-examination by defense attorney Linda Parisi.

In cross-examining Winger, Parisi generally focused on amounts of materials, whether they were in forms that could be effectively used as explosives, and how authorities had tested them. For example, she asked about a vial that had tested positive for triacetone triperoxide (TATP) by a portable Raman spectrometer. Winger testified that the vial was about 1.75 inches tall and 0.75 to 1 inch in diameter, and that it probably contained about 10 to 14 g of material.

She also asked whether potassium perchlorate found in Snyder’s apartment was finely ground. Winger testified that it was more granular, and that reponders find it in both granular and finely ground forms in clandestine labs. Winger said that a finer powder would make for a more effective explosive.

Parisi next asked about a portable Raman device used for field testing and how it was calibrated. Winger said that he didn’t know about the calibration since it wasn’t his agency’s device. Parisi also asked about one Raman unit that authorities were trying to use to test a device in Snyder’s bedroom when the device exploded. Parisi asked whether that Raman unit was subsequently used to test other things in the apartment. Winger said that it was. The Raman unit has a glass shield to protect it from damage, and while the shield was damaged and removed, the technician operating the unit ran diagnostics that indicated the spectrometer was functioning all right after the explosion.

Parisi also asked whether the Raman unit used a single wavelength and whether it used “UV spectroscopy” (these appear to be the instrument specifications, although the instrument used may be an older model). She also asked if the investigators used gas chromatography or gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, and whether the forensic lab tested for materials other than what came up positive. Winger said that he didn’t know the details of what the forensic lab does.

Parisi next asked how investigators avoided cross-contamination. Winger said that in the field, items were spread out on tarps. The primary purpose of separating materials was to avoid having them react with each other, but it also serves to prevent cross-contamination. Also, the Raman unit can test the materials in clear containers without opening them, which also limits contamination.

Parisi asked Winger about whether he’d investigated other clandestine labs that involved chemists with Ph.D. degrees. Winger said he hadn’t. She asked whether Winger thought that more training would decrease the danger of a clandestine lab. Winger said that in his opinion, more training wouldn’t improve safety, because more training and experience could increase someone’s comfort level such that they’d be less cautious and not take safety precautions.

Among the items found in Snyder’s apartment was a solution of explosive propellant called double base smokeless powder (DBSP), as well as ingredients to make it. On redirect questioning, Holzapfer asked whether it was safe to make DBSP in Snyder’s apartment. Winger said no. As for whether Snyder could have safely stored the material, Winger said that while the state does not require specialized storage, it can’t be present on a university campus. Holzapfer also asked whether there was any safe way to make explosives in Snyder’s apartment. Winger said no.

Cross-examining Winger again, Parisi explored the safety question further. Winger said it is not safe to manufacture explosives or other illegal substances in an apartment. Parisi asked if that was true even given a very small amount. Winger responded that it depends on the circumstances, but even half to one ounce of a high explosive could inflict significant damage. He pointed out that Snyder himself was injured.

That concluded Winger’s testimony.

Parisi asked the judge to dismiss counts 7-10, those for possession of materials with intent to make a destructive device. Parisi said that while tests indicated that Snyder possessed items that could produce an explosion, there was no evidence he planned to mix them or create a destructive device.

Holzapfer argued in return that Snyder had mixed ammonium nitrate prills with aluminum, showing his intent to make a destructive device. He also made nitroglycerin and put it into a device, the one in Snyder’s bedroom that exploded when investigators tried to test it.

Parisi also asked the judge to combine counts 1-4 on reckless disposal of hazardous waste into one count, saying that although hazardous material had been deposited at four locations, there was no evidence that Snyder directed alleged accomplice Tashari El-Sheikh to do so or that Snyder had knowledge of the separate placements.

Holzapfer said that when you ask a second person to dispose of items, it’s a natural conclusion that they might place them in separate locations. Additionally, Snyder asked El-Sheikh to move a particular item from one place to another, Holzapfer said. Holzapfer also noted that there were multiple dumpsters involved at the four locations, and that there was significant risk to the community in both transporting the items to the locations and in leaving them in the dumpsters.

Parisi also argued that the firearms charges, counts 11-17, should be combined into one.

Holzapfer responded that the chargers are for each of the guns that investigators found in Snyder’s apartment.

Judge Reed then took a 10-minute recess to look at the exhibits and review his notes. When he returned, he said there was sufficient evidence to support the charges, such that there is a strong suspicion that the violations occurred and that Snyder committed the offenses. Reed did not change any of the charges. Reed set a “meet and confer” appointment with the attorneys for Oct. 25 and scheduled Snyder to be arraigned on Nov. 1.

Other coverage: Sacramento Bee, Woodland Daily Democrat

Friday chemical safety round up

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