Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Danger of Combustible Dust

By RAFAEL MOURE-ERASO, NYT, AUG. 22, 2014

WASHINGTON — This month, 75 people were killed and 185 others injured after an explosion ripped through a metal products factory in China’s eastern Jiangsu Province. The culprit? Dust.

Tiny metal particles and metal dust are byproducts of the manufacturing process, and a cloud of them requires only a spark to explode — which in turn can loft more dust and cause more explosions. According to workers at the factory in China, the dust had been thick in the air, caking the workers’ skin and clothes.

The disaster in China resembles, on a larger scale, accidents that have occurred all too frequently in the United States. Since 2003, the United States Chemical Safety Board, the independent federal agency of which I am the chairman, has been investigating these accidents. Unfortunately, there is no reason to believe that accidents with high numbers of fatalities aren’t possible here, too.

(More here.)

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