Belle, West Virginia - Saturday, January 23, 2010: Carl "Dan" Fish was exposed to phosgene at from a leaking transfer hose while at DuPont's Belle plant that afternoon.
Fish was transported via ambulance to Charleston Area Medical Center after the exposure where he died late the following night.
Fish was in his 50's (exact age not given) and had been a DuPont employee for 32 years.
Fish was an employee at the facility and a member of the plant's Site Emergency Response Team, a specialized outfit which is actually trained to respond to such HAZMAT emergencies as the phosgene release that claimed his life.
DuPont released a statement at the time of Fish's death in which it said the deceased was an integral part of the Belle plant's Site Emergency Response team for much of his career, the company said.
Prior to the death of Fish, the Belle facility experienced several disturbing industrial mishaps within a 33 hour time period. Those incidents included:
*On the evening of Friday, Jan. 22, operators at Belle discovered a rupture disc had blown in one of the production units, allowing methyl chloride vapor to be released to the atmosphere. Plant personnel determined that the disc may have blown prior to the startup of the facility five days earlier and that up to 1,900 pounds of methyl chloride may have been vented to the atmosphere. Methyl chloride is a colorless, poisonous gas used in the production of fungicides and pesticides.
*A fume alert sounded at 7:45 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 23, as a result of a sulfuric acid leak in the spent acid recovery process. Site operations personnel determined that less than 20 pounds of sulfuric acid escaped into the environment.
*A power cord shorted to an outside lighting fixture and was de-energized. "There was never a fire, never a hazard to anyone," said Bill Menke, the plant manager.
The series of mishaps would culminate with the death of Fish.
DuPont is recognized as an industry leader and model with regard to employee safety. Dupont has traditionally taken great pride in it's safety record, thus the fact that not one or two but rather three accidents could occur at the same facility all within a 33 hour period and result in an actual death shocked many and left DuPont deeply shaken while also searching for answers.
An investigation by the Chemical Safety Board would later determine that Fish's death as well as the various other accidents in the 33 hour period, were all preventable.
Phosgene is an extremely dangerous respiratory irritant that is very capable of being fatal.
Phosgene is several times more lethal than chlorine (which is itself very dangerous).
Despite being extremely toxic, phosgene is considered a valuable chemical building block and is frequently used by DuPont and similar chemical corporations as a chemical intermediate to make plastics and pesticides.
Phosgene "has a pleasant odor of newly mown hay or green corn. However, its odor may not be noticed by all people exposed," according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). It may be colorless or appear as a white to pale yellow cloud. Exposure may cause delayed effects that may not be apparent for up to 48 hours, even if the person feels better or appears well following removal from exposure.
With cooling and pressure, phosgene can be converted into a liquid so it can be shipped and stored. When liquid phosgene is released, it quickly turns into a gas that stays close to the ground and spreads rapidly. Contact with liquid phosgene can cause freeze-burns or frost-bite.
Phosgene was also used extensively as a chemical weapon during World War One. Phosgene is also widely considered to be a potential weapon for terrorism by authorities and thus is a source of concern. As a chemical warfare agent it is catgorized as a pulmonary or choking agent.
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