US CSB asks chem industry to monitor NaHS more closely

15 July 2004 19:31  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (CNI)--The US Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) called Thursday for aggressive industry monitoring of sodium hydrosulphide (NaHS) use, citing 32 deaths related to NaHS accidents since 1971.


CSB said in a safety bulletin issued today that NaHS – used to make leather and paper products – can produce large amounts of hydrogen sulphide gas when reacting with an acid or exposed to heat. The potentially fatal gas deadens olfactory nerves and consequently makes it difficult for workers to detect high concentrations of the gas, CSB noted.


CSB’s investigation into NaHS stems from a January 2002 accident that caused two deaths at an Alabama paper mill. The agency concluded that national accident data is incomplete and there may be more unrecorded deaths due to NaHS.


Today’s bulletin urged chemical companies to provide workers with material safety data sheets to inform them of potential NaHS dangers. CSB also urged industry to use technology and design improvements to reduce hazards, including using air monitoring, safety storage and proper use of protective gear.


NaHS/acid mixtures can occur in a chemical process sewer, CSB noted, adding that even moderate exposures impair a person’s ability to smell the gas. Health effects range from shortness of breath to rapid unconsciousness or death, depending on the exposure level, the agency said.


Today’s bulletin describes “common themes” it found in the NaHS accidents it investigated. They include spills, leaks, inadvertent mixing resulting in contact with acid, inadequate ventilation and detection devices and inappropriate emergency response.

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