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Topic: I think I am being exposed to chemicals in a dangerous way..  (Read 7559 times)

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Offline Mr Scared

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I think I am being exposed to chemicals in a dangerous way..
« on: October 15, 2012, 04:31:58 PM »
So I work for a company that manufactures a type of protein concentrator used with urine electrophoresis.  In the back manufacturing room is where the crew work on the membranes that go into these concentrators.  The membranes are treated with several different types of chemicals in order to stay saturated for extended periods of time and other reasons.  Now I believe that the people making these membranes are probably not taking care of the area properly which I believe is exposing all of us to these chemicals that they use.  So what they mix is Sodium Azide and Dioctyl Sulfosuccinate sodium salt in with a glycerin/water mixture.  This is what the membranes soak in for an extended period of time before being brought out. squeegeed off, and put into the concentrator. 

Now this mixture literally gets all over the place.  The floor, the tables, the workers gloves, door handles, and just about everywhere.  The crew is given rubber gloves and a type of gas mask.....but they only ever wear the gloves.  They deal with the intense smell and do sometimes get headaches. 

My questions to your chemical geniuses are...Do I need to report this to someone?  Are we being subjected to clearly an unsafe work environment?  Is long term damage being done to our health and we dont know it? 

I am not part of this manufacturing crew but obviously someone needs to speak up for them.....I couldn't live with myself if this was very bad for them and nobody did anything about it....

Here are a few pictures....

http://s1311.beta.photobucket.com/user/Mrscaredforlife/library/

You can see two of the bottles I snapped a picture of.  Then I stood back and snapped a picture of the table that they are on out in the open.  Keep in mind this isnt a clean room....this is completely out in the open.  You can see the power of Sodium Azide in the center of the table and the workers use a razor blade to break it up so that it mixes well into the glycerin. 

I am very curious to find out if I am just being too cautious or if there is a real danger here.   :-\

Sincerely,

A nervous worker bee. 






Offline Mr Scared

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Re: I think I am being exposed to chemicals in a dangerous way..
« Reply #1 on: October 15, 2012, 04:44:45 PM »
Here is a chart that is found on the datasheet of the concentrator which lists ingredients..


NAME                                               CASE NUMBER        FUNCTION

Polyethersulfone Membrane                  Not Available          Membrane to concentrate proteins
Glycerin                                            56-81-5                Membrane wetting agent
Sodium Azide                                     26628-22-8           Bacterial growth inhibitor
Dioctyl Sulfosuccinate Sodium               577-11-7              Membrane wetting agent
Acrylonitrile-Butadiene-Styrene Polymer  100-42-5              Housing

Offline Dan

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Re: I think I am being exposed to chemicals in a dangerous way..
« Reply #2 on: October 15, 2012, 05:22:51 PM »
Well, I would certainly not allow sodium azide to be handled in this way in any laboratory I was working in.

I do not know the specific industrial standards and handling procedures that should be adhered to (there are regulars on here who will), or the specific precautions that must legally be in place, but I will briefly run over the safety precautions I take in chemical laboratories working with small quantities (<5 g) of sodium azide.

Sodium azide is a nasty poison - it is not quite as dangerous as sodium cyanide, but not far off. The biggest hazard associated with it is contact with acid, forming hydrazoic acid, which is a very toxic gas. The risk of exposure to a gas (inhalation) is much higher than that of a solid (ingestion).

1. Sodium azide should be handled in a fume hood. This is especially important for fine powders where the ingestion risk is increased by the increased risk of airborne dust. A mask should also be worn when handling large quantities or very fine powders. Use of a fume hood provides a ventilated area in which spillage/surface contamination is contained. There should be very strict protocols in place to prevent contamination of surfaces outside the fumehood - e.g. contamination of door handles is completely unacceptable and potentially very dangerous. Proper use of gloves and handwashing should contain the contamination to the fumehood. A fumehood protects from dust exposure and, in case of acid contact, from gas exposure.

2. Every precaution should be taken to minimise the risk of contact with acid. That means no acid in the fume hood containing sodium azide.

3. Gloves, eye protection and a lab coat/apron should always be worn.

Maybe I am overly cautious with sodium azide, but if I walked into a lab where on an open bench there were razor blades and a pile of sodium azide powder, I would immediately report it without hesitation. It is definitely unsafe, there is an unnecessarily high risk of harmful short term exposure, and sodium azide may cause long term problems through repeated exposure (see MSDS).

I suspect that the current way in which this is handled does not conform to legal health and safety requirements, but be aware that I am not an expert in heath and safety law.

MSDS for sodium azide: https://www.sciencelab.com/msds.php?msdsId=9927588
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Offline discodermolide

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Re: I think I am being exposed to chemicals in a dangerous way..
« Reply #3 on: October 15, 2012, 07:28:48 PM »
Here is a link to a page on the properties of azides:
http://www.stanford.edu/dept/EHS/prod/researchlab/lab/safety_sheets/08-203.pdf

As Dan said sodium azide is a very nasty compound indeed. I have had extensive experience with it and it is not to be taken lightly. We had to handle it >70Kg amounts dressed in disposable complete body suits with gas masks with a separate air supply. Two people had to be present, one working the other watching in case something happened. And the medical department was always informed when we were doing the chemistry.
Find out if there is a health and safety officer at the place where you work and report this sloppiness to them. If I saw something like that I would report it immediately and get everyone out of the room.
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Offline curiouscat

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Re: I think I am being exposed to chemicals in a dangerous way..
« Reply #4 on: October 16, 2012, 12:15:56 AM »

Find out if there is a health and safety officer at the place where you work and report this sloppiness to them. If I saw something like that I would report it immediately and get everyone out of the room.

If that does not work send a tip to OSHA.

Offline Mr Scared

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Re: I think I am being exposed to chemicals in a dangerous way..
« Reply #5 on: October 16, 2012, 09:43:46 AM »
Thank you for all the information. 

The problem with our company is it is very small.  There is nobody/entity to report this sloppiness to within the company.  And I'm sure if I reported it to the President he would shrug it off as if it isn't a big deal.  The other day I mentioned to him that I think the manufacturing crew is contaminating the entire room including the door handles.  His response was.."Use a paper towel to touch the door handles." 

I am tempted to anonymously notify OSHA since the owner and President don't really supply all the proper equipment to handle these chemicals....however I'm sure I would lose my job if they found out who tipped them off.  Assuming I did this and OSHA launched a full investigation.....could it mean the shutting down of the company?  Just curious what the ramifications will be if I went ahead with this.....but I guess that would be a question for OSHA.




Offline curiouscat

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Re: I think I am being exposed to chemicals in a dangerous way..
« Reply #6 on: October 16, 2012, 09:53:18 AM »
I am tempted to anonymously notify OSHA since the owner and President don't really supply all the proper equipment to handle these chemicals....however I'm sure I would lose my job if they found out who tipped them off.  Assuming I did this and OSHA launched a full investigation.....could it mean the shutting down of the company?  Just curious what the ramifications will be if I went ahead with this.....but I guess that would be a question for OSHA.

You can always try an anonymous tip off. Though doesn't mean they won't figure out it was you. Most violations are warnings or fines. To shut down a company it'd have to be real bad; I don't think it'd happen in this case though I'm no expert.

You might have some protection against dismissal under whistleblower acts. But talk to a lawyer. Anyways doubt you'd want to work at a place where they all hated you.

Offline discodermolide

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Re: I think I am being exposed to chemicals in a dangerous way..
« Reply #7 on: October 16, 2012, 10:29:20 AM »
Better than receiving an chemical related illness in the years to come.
With documentation that could cost someone dear.
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Offline curiouscat

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Re: I think I am being exposed to chemicals in a dangerous way..
« Reply #8 on: October 17, 2012, 01:35:14 AM »
Better than receiving an chemical related illness in the years to come.

Or worse: Not being around to see the years to come.

Offline 408

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Re: I think I am being exposed to chemicals in a dangerous way..
« Reply #9 on: October 17, 2012, 03:46:00 AM »
yeah NaN3 and NaCN are pretty similar. 

NaN3 solutions also form HN3 over time and HN3 exposure can cause headaches. 

Get a fumehood, and stop getting stuff on doors. 

Offline oxfordlabs

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Re: I think I am being exposed to chemicals in a dangerous way..
« Reply #10 on: January 14, 2013, 05:23:39 PM »
Hi Mr Scared,

My advice would be to report this asap to ensure proper health and safety standards are met. The size of the lab is no excuse to cut corners when it comes to handling chemicals correctly.

I've just been reading about the side effects of exposure to Sodium Azide. Not very pleasant!
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12851150

Greg

Offline Babcock_Hall

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Re: I think I am being exposed to chemicals in a dangerous way..
« Reply #11 on: January 14, 2013, 06:06:08 PM »
Here is a discussion of sodium azide, courtesy of the CDC:  "Sodium azide is more harmful to the heart and the brain than to other organs, because the heart and the brain use a lot of oxygen."
http://www.bt.cdc.gov/agent/sodiumazide/basics/facts.asp

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