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August Newsletter
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A short recap of our earlier newsletters.......

March 2000 - covered explosives, Class 1, divisions 1.1 to 1.6.

April dealt with gases, i.e., Divisions 2.1 Flammable Gases, 2.2 Non-Flammable Gases, and 2.3 Toxic Gases.

May covered Division 5.1 Oxidizers coinciding with the very sad fourth anniversary of the ValuJet accident in the Florida Everglades in the United States.

In June we did a quick review and offered a few reminders for those who transport dangerous goods/hazardous materials.

In July, we examined Division 5.2, Organic Peroxides with all of the regulators' technical information first and then tried our best to simplify those properties as best we could, hoping that it would not only help you recognize those chemicals but also to alert you to the risks involved in handling this extremely dangerous hazard class and division. We extend our thanks to those people who e-mailed comments to us about this particular division. They shared our lack of enthusiasm for all the technical information gleamed from the regulations and appreciated the brief description pointing out the actual properties in understandable language. At least we hope it was understandable.

We will be adding monthly quizzes as a feature in our websites as well as some of our experiences that demonstrate why dangerous goods go undeclared in transportation. We hope that these articles will be useful to shippers, forwarders, carriers, and less experienced persons involved in management, transportation or enforcement.

Meanwhile, back to the hazard classes....

This month we would like to cover Class 3, Flammable Liquids.

Flammable liquids are liquids that give off a flammable vapour at temperatures of not more than 60.5 degrees Celsius (141 degrees F.) closed-cup test or not more than 65.6 degrees Celsius (150 degrees F.) open-cup test normally referred to as the flash point.

Even this classification becomes somewhat confusing because of some technical terms that are misunderstood by persons who ship or transport these liquids. Let us start with some examples of Flammable Liquids: gasoline, ethanol, methanol, paint, adhesives, solvents, resin solution, acetone, nail polish, perfumes and colognes, "pump-type" hair sprays (but not aerosols), furniture and automotive waxes and polishes, fuel additives, ethers, flavouring extracts, aromatic extracts, home and industrial heating oils, alcoholic beverages, cough medicine, some pesticides, medicinal tinctures, hair tonic, drugs and medicines.
We underlined "alcoholic beverages" because that seems to get everyone's attention during training classes. Of course, your esteemed editor has had many years of personal experience in researching this particular hazardous material and we are always conducting new experiments with these products, if you know what we mean.

Now, if you can stop laughing for just a minute, the biggest misconception about a bottle of booze is where the manufacturer displays the "proof". The average citizen presumes the word "proof" indicates the amount of pure alcohol in the beverage. Actually it displays the percentage of alcohol, times two. For example, a good brand of scotch usually indicates that it is 80 proof. That number comes from the actual percentage of alcohol (40%) x 2, or, 40x2=80. So, if our favorite beverage is only 40% alcohol (actually ethyl alcohol, a.k.a. ethanol) what else is in the jug, uh, bottle? Since ethanol is totally miscible (the ability of a liquid or gas to dissolve uniformly in another liquid or gas) with water, distilled water represents the highest percentage of the ingredients. Small amounts of coloring and flavouring make up the balance of our product (hic).

In 49CFR Special Provision 24 eliminates the guesswork for alcoholic beverages. It advises that alcoholic beverages containing more than 70% of alcohol by volume must be assigned to Packing Group II and beverages containing more than 24% of alcohol by volume must be assigned to Packing Group III. Alcoholic beverages containing less than
24% alcohol are not regulated, therefore your favorite beer or wine is not going to be regulated as a flammable liquid. The size of inner receptacles (the bottles), percentage of alcohol, and mode of transportation may provide for further relaxation of the regulations.

All of the international regulations have similar rules. For example, under IATA you should refer to the Dangerous Goods List, Section 4.2, which is very detailed, and Special Provisions A9 and A58, in Section 4.4.

And, now, for the rest of the flammable liquids....

Misconception #1: the most frequent reply to the question "what is the meaning of flash point" is that it is the temperature at which a liquid will ignite or explode. WRONG!

FLASH POINT is the minimum temperature at which a liquid gives off ignitable vapors within a test vessel. The test vessel is either an open or a closed cup tester where the temperature of the liquid is strictly controlled. A device at the top of the cup sets off periodic sparks as the temperature of the liquid is increased. When the spark causes a "FLASH" you note the temperature of the liquid and you now have the "flash point", which should be in degrees Celsius. A closed cup test is the type of test required by the United Nations Orange Book and most regulatory agencies and is considered more reliable than an open cup test.

Misconception #2: Flash point is all you need to know. WRONG!
At least three, maybe more, bits of information about the properties of flammable liquids must be determined. BOILING POINT is vitally important. COMPATIBILITY with the primary receptacle containing the liquid, and the SPECIFIC GRAVITY of the liquid are also extremely important properties to be evaluated.
The temperature at which a liquid starts to boil. The magic number happens to be 35°C. (95°F.) Flammable liquids that boil at that temperature or lower are automatically assigned to Packing Group I - the most dangerous form of a flammable liquid. Remember now, the liquid boils when it reaches that temperature. It doesn't need your mother's stove with the flame cooking the drum to start to boil.

As the liquid boils it reacts similar to water boiling at 100°C. (212 °F) - it turns to steam.
As more of the liquid turns to steam, pressure builds up in the container causing the container to bulge and ultimately to burst with extraordinary force.

For those of you who physically handle dangerous goods, when the drum of a flammable liquid is bulging on the top and the bottom you may have a very dangerous situation unfolding. Don't ignore it!

Think about the last time you needed gasoline for your lawnmower. If you ever put the gasoline in a plastic milk bottle you have experienced compatibility in packaging. Does the liquid "attack" the container or the gasket in the closure? Does the container start to soften or weaken and ultimately leak? Incompatibility leads to container failure and accidental release of the dangerous goods. In transportation that could lead to a catastrophe.

How much does 1 litre of the flammable liquid weigh as compared to 1 litre of water?
If the flammable liquid weighs 1.5 kg and water weighs 1.0 kg. then the specific gravity of the flammable liquid is 1.5. Most Packing Group II packagings are tested for a specific gravity of 1.2. In the above example, the packaging not likely to be suitable for the flammable liquid that is being shipped.

Packing group numbers are our way of communicating the risk involved with most dangerous goods/hazardous materials, based upon appropriate testing. The tests vary according to the hazard class. PG I is a great danger, PG II is a medium danger, and PG III represents a minor danger.

For Flammable Liquids, Class 3, the packing groups are based upon flash point and boiling point.

Flash Point
(closed cup test)
Boiling Point
less than or equal to 35°C.
less than 23°C.
greater than 35°C.
equal to or greater than 23°C.
But less than or equal to 60.5°C.
greater than 35°C.



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