Hydrogen peroxide is a very common substance nowadays. A 3% hydrogen peroxide solution is used in several applications from bleaching hair to cleaning wounds. It’s even used for whitening bones that are going to be used in museum displays or to clean up red blood stains on clothing.
Because of the many everyday uses of its diluted form, people tend to forget that hydrogen peroxide can actually be a dangerous substance. After all, it just looks like ordinary water. While it’s not flammable – it has an NFPA Flammability rating of 3 – it is an oxidizer with corrosive properties. It can react violently with several substances including acetic acid, alcohols and ketones; reactions range from ignition to explosion.
These reactive properties of hydrogen peroxide have been demonstrated in several events throughout history. In 1934, a rocket engine prototype in Germany exploded, killing three people. The rocket engine used the said compound as it oxidizer. While there have been no accidents as deadly as that in recent years, there have been several disasters that have been averted. One of these incidents was the peroxide spill on board Northwest Airlines flight 957 and the subsequent fire on Flight 7 on October 28, 1998.
The Spill on Northwest Airlines Flight 957
The problem began on flight 957, a commercial flight travelling from Florida to Tennessee. A nurse travelling on the same flight checked in an ice chest, containing two plastic gallon bottles full of 35% hydrogen peroxide solution. When asked by the airline staff if the ice chest contained hazardous materials, the nurse said there was none, thinking that hydrogen peroxide was not considered hazardous. After receiving a tip from the nurse, the airline staff allowed the ice chest to be checked in along with other baggage.
The plane took off from Orlando, Florida and landed in Memphis, Tennessee without incident. While at Memphis, cargo handlers started to unload baggage on flight 957 and discovered a spill that spread throughout the cargo hold. The spill was from the bottles inside the ice cooler, which had ruptured in mid-flight.
Thinking that the spill was only water from either the ice chest or a fish shipment, the cargo handlers proceeded to transfer baggage to other Northwest flights. The ice chest was transferred to flight 7, headed for Seattle, Washington.
The Fire on Flight 7
A few minutes after transferring baggage, the cargo handlers and other employees complained that their hands were tingling and turning white. Alarmed, the airline called for help from the airport fire station, reporting that might be hazardous material in the ice chest. The chest was subsequently removed from flight 7, and several employees suffered minor injuries.
However, the pilot of flight 7 was not notified; the flight proceeded to Seattle. Upon arrival at Seattle, local emergency responders tasked with clearing the plane of contaminated baggage discovered two smoldering suitcases. Despite the lack of fire, one responder was taken to the hospital for smoke inhalation.
Luckily, there were no serious injuries in this incident. Yet it had all the potential of becoming a deadlier incident. It only shows how important the right containment and packaging solutions are when transporting hazardous materials, even if it’s something as common as hydrogen peroxide.
- TECHNICAL CENTER
- Compliance Surveys
- Reference Charts
- Refererence Pages
- Site Map
- CUSTOMER SERVICE
- Contact Us
- How to Order
- Quality Guarantee
- Price Guarantee
- Request A Quote
- Request A Sample
- Distributor Sign Up