Study to Follow Fatal 2008 Explosion, Comments Sought
Interested parties have until May 10 to provide comment on the design of a Congressionally mandated study on the use of methyl isocyanate (MIC) in the manufacturing of certain pesticides. The study by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board also will look at the feasibility of implementing safer alternatives to protect workers and the public from a potential release.
The highly toxic chemical intermediate MIC is used at the Bayer CropScience pesticide manufacturing complex in Institute, W.V. An explosion at the Bayer complex on August 28, 2008, that fatally injured two workers occurred within 80' of a 37,000-lb capacity storage tank of MIC. MIC also is the chemical that resulted in thousands of public fatalities when it was suddenly released into the air from a pesticide manufacturing plant in Bhopal, India, in December 1984.
Congress appropriated $600,000 to Washington, D.C-based CSB for fiscal year 2010 specifically “for a study by the National Academy of Sciences to examine the use and storage of methyl isocyanate including the feasibility of implementing alternative chemicals or processes and an examination of the cost of alternatives at the Bayer CropScience facility in Institute, West Virginia.” Prior to the Congressional action, Bayer had publicly committed to reducing its inventory of MIC at Institute from approximately 200,000 lb to 40,000 lb by discontinuing the production of two MIC-derived pesticides and strengthening inventory controls over its remaining pesticide manufacturing processes.
CSB Chairman John Bresland said that depending on the public comments received and the availability of funding, the CSB could request the NAS to examine additional topics such as the use of hydrofluoric acid (HF) in refinery alkylation processes or chlorine in water treatment. The CSB is currently investigating two releases of toxic HF from U.S. oil refineries in 2009.
A Federal Register notice asks for specific public comments on the proposed study design, the timetable for the study, the appropriate composition of the study panel, and the desirability of examining other chemicals for which inherently safer technology (IST) alternatives have been proposed. Comments can be submitted by email to email@example.com.