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As planned, we would like to continue with information concerning the Hazard Classes and divisions. In May we discussed Div. 5.1, Oxidizers and in June we did a recap of classes 1 and 2 and reminded you about certain approvals and exemptions issued by the U.S. D.O.T., Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA). We also reminded you that the U.S. has added severe restrictions on oxygen cylinders, Div. 2.2, sub risk 5.1.
This month we would like to direct your attention to Organic Peroxides, Division 5.2. Are you ready?
The official definition is: Organic substances which contain the bivalent structure -O-O- and may be considered derivatives of hydrogen peroxide in which one or both of the hydrogen atoms have been replaced by organic radicals.
Note: Hydrogen peroxide is made up of two hydrogen atoms and two oxygen atoms connected by in a chain thusly: H-O-O-H.
Organic peroxides are thermally unstable substances which may undergo exothermic, self-accelerating decomposition. In addition, they may have one or more of the following properties:
You might want to ask your average truck driver, cargo handler, cargo agent, warehouse distribution worker or enforcement officer exactly what all that means.
It gets better! The "Experts" then go on to say that an organic peroxide must be classified as an organic peroxide unless the organic peroxide formulation contains:
are formulae to help determine percentages.
In the above noted definition of Organic Peroxides, Div. 5.2 the phrase "hydrogen peroxide" appears four times. The phrase "organic peroxide" appears six times. Both phrases are matched together four times.
The hazmat tables list "Hydrogen Peroxide" (in varying percentages) 6 times - a 7th time as another compound. Five out of the seven times the "Hydrogen Peroxide" is classified as Div. 5.1 (Oxidizer) with a sub risk of 8 (Corrosive). Of the other two entries, one classifies "Hydrogen Peroxide" as an Oxidizer (5.1) and the other entry is "not restricted" (not regulated).
Are you confused? Wait, there is more....
There are 20 entries in the hazmat tables for "Organic Peroxides" - some solid; some liquids; some temperature controlled; eight are allowed to be shipped by air; 16 are forbidden by air; some require explosive labels as subsidiary risk labels; some require corrosive labels as the subsidiary risk labels. All of the entries in the tables have proper shipping names starting off with "Organic peroxides type ___".
Appendix C in the IATA Regulations, in the Table C-2, lists approximately 200 combinations of mixtures of organic peroxides, with percentages of the organic peroxide and other factors that determine which Proper Shipping Name and UN I.D. Number to use in the Dangerous Goods List (Hazmat Table). Caution: the print is small so use a ruler to make sure you are reading the entry correctly. D.O.T., IMO, I.C.A.O., and the UN Orange Book have similar tables.
That is a lot of
technical information. And it makes it difficult for the average person
to understand exactly what an organic peroxide is or just how dangerous
it can be.
Lets take another look at the properties of an organic peroxide:
So, in normal language, an organic peroxide is a very sensitive, unstable, radical type of chemical that can cause an explosion or a very rapid type of fire and can quickly build up pressure in containers causing a sometimes violent reaction and can react very dangerously with other chemicals and burn the skin and the eyes. Because of the possibility of rapidly building pressure in the container due to heat or vibration, the containers frequently are vented to allow the excess pressure to vent into the atmosphere. These types of containers are forbidden in air transportation.
And, they are not easy to identify because the normal methods of looking up hazardous materials in the transportation regulations are not used to identify them.
Now, wasn't that easy?
Organic peroxides are used in cosmetics (blemish removers), rocket fuel, explosives, plastics and fibreglass, fibreglass repair kits (for boats and aircraft), chemical testing kits, first aid kits, anti-bacterial and anti-viral cleaning agents, and many other uses.
To an untrained shipper or distributor they are sometimes shipped as undeclared dangerous goods because they are not identified by normal procedures. Of course, if you read the MSDS carefully, you might get a hint.
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