=93The Hazmat unit was unable to detect the c ause of the fumes because it was organic=85..=94
span class="Apple-style-span" style="font-size: 12px;">
Ahh a good laugh for a mundane Mo nday. I passed this article around work!
I, too, was puzzled (and somew hat amused, since the situation was not life-threatening) at this hazmat response.
=B7 &nb sp; The ability of the hazmat team to function on scene depends upon what instrume ntation they have. They might have had a =93four gas/ PID=94 instru ment that measures O2, combustibles organics, and then two more (of CO, H2S, SO2, NO, NO2, Cl2, HCN, NH3, PH3 ) . The device can measure concentration of a long of list of combustible organics IF you know what the compound is. These devic es do not identify substances, but can measure concentrations of known su bstances. Sometimes emergency responders have good informat ion about =93what is leaking=94 based on reliable local information and/or DOT placards and such.
Another common device would be portable IR detection units that can s amples gases, liquids, or solids. While these d evices can identify compounds (from spectral match with libraries) I don=92 t=92 think that they can handle mixtures.
(Small fire departments without a =93hazm at team=94 would not have either of the devices described above. At best, they will have a simple four-gas meter; probably: O2, combustible gases, CO, and H2S.)
Since the =93fumes=94 from chilis would be a complicat ed gas mixture neither of the devices above would be able to identify the =93gas.=94 The term =93organic=94 in this news repo rt would have been better replaced by =93mixture=94, and chemists know th at these are hardly interchangeable terms. I do not know of any por table hazmat instruments that could handle mixtures; I assume that a port able GC-MS would be the preferred tool here and I don=92t know if that is p art of a hazmat constellation of detection devices. < /p>
< p class="ecxMsoNormal" style="line-height:12.0pt">In the episode described in the new report, the experienced human nose (preferably with culinary training!) would be the preferred detection device although hazmat folks an d other emergency responders are trained NOT to use the nose for good reaso n: the (unknown) substance might be quite toxic or dangerou s. We are trained to =93stay upwind=94 and at a saf e distance until the situation is better understood. Of course, s ometimes responders don=92t know what the situation is until they are on sc ene; the information we get in advance is only as good as the inf ormation from whomever called 911 and there is no way to assess what qualit y of that information in advance. =93There=92s a funny odor in our neighborhood!=94 So, sometimes =93the nose=94 inadvertently becom es a detection device.
David C. Finster
Professor, Department of Chemistry
University Chemical Hygiene Off icer
(and Hazmat Technician, Dayton Regional Hazardous Materials Team,
Safety Officer, Miami Township Fire-Rescue)
From: DCHAS-L Discussion List [mailto:DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LI
ST.UVM.EDU] On Behalf Of Rita Kay Calhoun
Sent: Monday, April 25, 2011 10:14 AM
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] Chemical Safety headlines from Google
Re: fumes caused by heating chilies.
=93The Hazmat unit was unable to detect the cause of the fumes because it was organic=85..=94
I=92m a bit at a loss. I would crack a joke about the chilies being raised without the use of pesticides, but the st atement shows such a lack of understanding that it=92s almost scary.  ; I hope it was the reporter that was clueless and not the people entrust ed to make knowledgeable decisions about potentially hazardous situations.< /span>
DCHAS-L Discussion List [mailto:DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**list.uvm.edu] On Behalf
Of Ralph Stuart
Sent: Monday, April 25, 2011 8:25 AM
< b>To: DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU
Subject: [DCHAS-L] Chemical Safety headlines from Google
Links to details available at http://pinboard.in/u :dchas
RESIDENTS COUGH UP TO A CHILLI NIGHT, http:/ /www.caseyweeklycranbourne.com.au/news/local/news/general/residents-cough-u p-to-a-chilli-night/2143005.aspx
A CRANBOURNE North resident cooking a box of chillis in an electric wok caused a chemica l emergency when neighbours were overcome by fumes on Tuesday last week.
Five ambulances, a Cranbourne CFA unit and a Hazmat response vehicle from Dandenong CFA were called to La wless Drive when about 10 residents were affected by the chilli fumes. The Hazmat unit was unable to detect the cause of the fumes because it was orga nic so a CFA crew was forced to rely on sniffing out the source.
Intensive care paramedic David Llewelyn said an ambulance arrived just before 10.30pm to treat two men who were coughing and having t rouble breathing, and more ambulances arrived as the number of affected p eople grew.
"We had up to 10 people who were coughi ng and were dizzy and nauseated." He said the fumes reached houses up to 15 0 metres away.
"We decided to do a doorknock of other homes to make sure no one else had been overcome, while the CFA wo rked to find the source of the fumes. It emerged someone was roasting stron g chillies in the backyard and that's what caused the fumes."
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