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AHMP-NJ Meeting - Chemical High Hazard Reactions: Beirut, Lebanon Explosion, Can they Happen Here?

Updated: Dec 18, 2020

Baron Participated in the most recent Alliance of Hazardous Materials Professionals (AHMP) - NJ meeting which included a with a presentation focussing on "Chemical High Hazard Reactions: Beirut, Lebanon Explosion, Can they Happen Here?”

While many R&D and Manufacturing Operations in NJ may not have the quantity and type of materials involved in the explosion earlier this year in Beirut, it doesn’t mean there aren’t possible explosions / fires waiting to happen. By now most of us have seen the video of the devastating explosion/fire that resulted in over 200 fatalities, 7500+ injuries, an estimated US$15 billion in damages, and over 300,000 people left homeless. While the exact cause of the event is still under investigation, improper storage of large quantities of fireworks, kerosene, acid, and ammonium nitrate in the same area is a recipe for disaster.

The speaker, Robert Nitko, Director of Environmental Compliance for ACV Enviro, an industrial, environmental and waste disposal services company, indicated that the chemical responsible for these blasts and may others, ammonium nitrate, is often not even identified as an explosive by DOT, Right To Know and other warning systems. Laboratories, Universities, and abandoned industrial properties can have these type materials that are typically not identified as explosives, but still have the potential for violent and sometimes explosive reactions. This includes materials such as peroxide forming solvents, picric acid, organic peroxides, and others that are found in both industrial and non-industrial settings. As the Fire Triangle demonstrates, oxygen, fuel and an ignition source is needed for the fire/explosion to occur. Oxidizers are typically reactive and under different environments their use and improper storage can provide the oxygen and heat legs of the triangle leading to an ignition. When these materials are used at a site, they can not be stored forever. Inventory Management Systems like First In First Out and the use of Inhibitors in solvents and peroxides can minimize the risks of fire/explosion.

As always, the key is to know what materials are used at the site, properly store and segregate materials, utilize manufacturer’s guidance on shelf life and properly dispose of materials when required. If you need help with this type of assessment, please contact us.

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