Fatal Chlorine Gas Incident in Jordan
In its natural state, chlorine is a greenish-yellow, corrosive, toxic gas. It is highly irritating to the skin, eyes, and lungs. Inhaling chlorine can cause a buildup of fluid in the lungs known as pulmonary edema—a potentially lethal condition. During WWI, chlorine gas was used as a choking agent.
Chlorine is pressurized and cooled to change it to a liquid state, making it amenable for transportation and storage. If the pressurization is compromised, it will quickly return to its gaseous state.
That’s what happened on June 27 when a storage tank slipped from a crane’s hoist at the port of Aqaba in Jordan off the Red Sea (near the border with Israel) as it was loaded onto a ship.
Dock workers, truckers, and ship personnel ran as the port was quickly engulfed in toxic clouds. At least twelve people were killed and more than 250 were injured. The nearest residential area is 15 miles away, so the public was not in immediate danger.
The cause of the incident is under investigation.
How is Chlorine Regulated in Transportation?Chlorine (UN 1017) is regulated as a toxic gas (Division 2.3) with a subsidiary hazard of oxidizer (Division 5.1) and corrosive (Class 8) in transportation.
In the US, chlorine is regulated as an inhalation hazard and a hazardous substance with a reportable quantity of 10 pounds (49 CFR 171.23(b)(5) and (b)(10)). In other words, if more than 10 pounds are released at one time, an immediate report must be made to the National Response Center and a written report must be filed (DOT Form 5800.1).
Transportation of chlorine by aircraft is forbidden (49 CFR 172.101, IATA DGR 4.2)
The incident in Jordan serves as a stark reminder that hazardous materials pose real danger to supply chain employees and the public at large. The tragic, fatal release of a hazardous materials in transportation underscores the importance of effective hazmat training, proper hazard communication, and safe handling of dangerous goods throughout the supply chain.
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