Discussion Central

1.  Hidden Hazards

SENIOR MEMBER
Posted 17 days ago
Normally when I'm doing work in the cosmetics industry, most of the ingredients are non-hazardous.  The most common high hazard is flammable solvents (such as isododecane and alcohols) or with nail products nitrocellulose (which is flammable in a solvent mixture, but explosive when dry).  Today,  I was looking at polybutene, a cosmetic ingredient used as a conditioner in lipsticks, and came upon some obscure hidden hazards.  Below is copied from the SDS, Section 5 Fire-Fighting measures:

"Specific hazards arising from the chemical:  Rapid depolymerization can occur in a fire and produce flammable vapors. May
depolymerize at temperatures above 200°C with the production of extremely flammable
butene monomers. Vapor may cause fire. Vapors may accumulate in low or confined
areas or travel a considerable distance to a source of ignition and flash back. Runoff to
sewer may create fire or explosion hazard.

Special protective actions for fire-fighters: Where open cell insulation has been contaminated with polybutene, spontaneous
combustion may occur at temperatures as low as 138°C (280°F). Therefore, where open
cell insulation has been used, the temperature of storage tanks and heat tracing must be
kept well below 120°C (250°F) and any insulation contaminated with polybutene should
be replaced immediately."


These special hazards could be a concern for an R&D lab worker or engineering designer.  Interestingly, the NFPA fire diamond for this is: Health: 0 Flammability: 1 Instability: 0 Special Hazard: none.  The DOT proper shipping name label gives it a way somewhat:  "Elevated temperature liquid, n.o.s. (Polybutene)"

I imagine if you worked at a factory that made polybutene you would know this.  For the rest of us, it could be a hidden hazard.  I was thinking an interesting thread would be to discuss hidden hazards people have found.

Cheers,

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Samuel Davis PE
Principal Engineer
SAMSIM LLC
Las Vegas NV
1(702) 589-0338
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2.  RE: Hidden Hazards

SENIOR MEMBER
Posted 16 days ago
​Hello,
Polybutenes are commonly added to automotive motor oils to control viscosity. Typical operating temperatures for motor oils are around 240 F.  There is very little depolymerization at these temperatures.  Motor oils often last for many months of use.   I don't view polybutene depolymerization as a hidden hazard.  Almost every substance has a recommended temperature range.   Every substance should be evaluated and found suitable for it's intended use.

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David Leyshon
Development Researcher
LyondellBasell
Houston TX
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3.  RE: Hidden Hazards

SENIOR MEMBER
Posted 12 days ago
I think the concept of what constitutes a hidden hazard may be different depending on your background.  I remember reading some examples of a hidden hazard in CEP and saying to myself, that's not a hidden hazard.  That was because I was already familiar with the hazard and it wouldn't seem hidden to me or those I worked with.

In the cosmetics industry, there are thousand of chemical ingredients used and many of those are polymers.  Having looked at probably hundreds of them in detail, the vast majority are pretty benign.  The most high hazard is usually flammable solvents like I mentioned and nitrocellulose.  I don't recall ever coming across a polymer used for cosmetics that depolymerizes at a fairly low temperature (200*C) or that reacts with open insulating materials to catch fire.  So in that sense, it seems like a hidden hazard.

Quite often in making a cosmetic formula, there is a heating step involved.  So a lab hazard scenario would be if some polybutene spilled onto a hot plate and depolymerized and caused a flash fire.  Another hazard scenario in a production environment would be if some polybutene spilled onto the insulation around the tank and caught fire and then heated the tank to above the 200*C depolymerization temperature and caused the contents inside the tank to depolymerize and flash a secondary fire or worse (BLEVE).  This could also be caused by overheating the tank in general, due to some instrumentation and control malfunction or human error.

I would say this hazard reminds me of the importance to review chemical hazards before bringing them on-site and make sure you have a good HAZCOM system in place so that employees and contractors are trained on the hazards.  Additionally, having the SDS and reading it before you work with a chemical is important.  A good MOC and PHA system should be in place to ensure that theses risks are managed in the design review phase for new or existing processes.  I think SOP's, engineering standards, and engineering controls also play an important role in minimizing such hazards.

I was thinking when I started the discussion, a thread on hidden hazards might be interesting and others would contribute various hidden hazards they have come across and discuss best practices to how the potential hazardous consequences can be avoided? 

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Samuel Davis PE
Principal Engineer
SAMSIM LLC
Las Vegas NV
1(702) 589-0338
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4.  RE: Hidden Hazards

SENIOR MEMBER
Posted 9 days ago
​Samuel,
There were almost 200,000 residential fires caused by cooking in the US in 2015 significant enough to be reported.  That's a lot of hazards, few of which should have been hidden.

I worked as an engineer in a Polybutene  manufacturing facility for many years and may have reviewed the below warning back then.  Polyb, as we affectionately called it, is rather benign as it is used in lipstick and plastic wrap for food and is stable at high temperatures (without exposure to a fire).  The point of the warning about depolymerizing in a fire is for awareness that - in a fire - polybutene can burn more quickly than say mineral oil, for example, due to the potential for cracking.   I imagine that many other materials, especially plastics, experience similar behavior in a fire.  Hamburgers could have their own warning that melting fat can cause a flash fire in the BBQ.   Most of the other ingredients in lipstick will burn in a fire.  The best plan is to work on preventing fires.

Anyway, you are to be commended for paying attention to the warnings.

Lou


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Lou Diamond
Houston TX
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