11 June 2004 21:58 [Source: ICIS news]
The US Coast Guard (USCG) Chemical Transportation Advisory Committee (CTAC) scrutinized ACN during a day-long session earlier this week. Sources said today that experts provided data to the committee to help determine whether that basic chemical could be used as a weapon by terrorists and whether it should be reclassified as a toxic inhalation hazard.
CTAC decided against elevating the risk level for ACN.
ACN is used to make acrylic fibres in clothing and as a precursor for acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS) and styrene acrylonitrile (SAN) resins used in pipes, plastics, vehicles, furniture and packaging. But ACN also is a suspected carcinogen. Symptoms of ACN poisoning are similar to those of cyanide poisoning.
Had ACN been elevated to the risk level of “certain dangerous cargo,” outbound and inbound shipments of ACN at US ports would have been subject to increased security and likely delay. The definition of "certain dangerous cargo" was expanded in the wake of the September 2001 terrorist attacks in the US.
ACN is among the top 100 basic chemicals in terms of production. World demand for ACN was 4.8m tonne in 2002, according to UK-based consultants PCI-Fibres & Raw Materials.
Global demand is expected to grow in 2004 by 4% or 200 000 tonne, according to PCI.
Alice Johnson of PPG Industries, chairwoman of the CTAC cargo transportation security subcommittee, told CNI today that ACN is among a small handful of potentially dangerous chemicals entering US seaports that needed additional scrutiny.
But after examining data and anecdotal evidence, Johnson said, the subcommittee chose not to recommend to the full committee or USCG that ACN be added to a list of specific hazardous chemicals to be scrutinized more aggressively by vessels and ports.
“Can this product be used as a weapon of mass destruction?” Johnson said. “We do not feel that we had enough information to say that.”
The subcommittee agreed with the existing US Department of Transportation classification, Johnson said, which does not consider the chemical a toxic inhalation hazard. But she said the chemical is “on the borderline.”
Industry advocates note that the chemical is regulated under the Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA), which requires shippers to address security risks.
Robert Fensterheim, an ACN industry advocate for the Washington, DC-based AN Group, said one conclusion in the meetings was that ACN would only be broadly dangerous in massive quantities.
“The conclusion was that anybody who had nefarious intentions could not do much because they would not have the quantities necessary,” Fensterheim said.
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