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Mercury Spillage at Belfast Airport

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Mercury Spillage at Belfast Airport

Old 26th Apr 2004, 11:48
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Mercury Spillage at Belfast Airport

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Old 26th Apr 2004, 15:10
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If the mercury got anywhere near the aircraft structure it is going to be expensive and the aircraft might even not be worth repairing.
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Old 26th Apr 2004, 16:20
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The people taken to hospital ahve been given the all clear, says the BBC site.

Not sure of any damage to a/c though.
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Old 26th Apr 2004, 17:24
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Thumbs up ??????????????????????????? ?

How did the mercury get on board the aircraft? Was it in someone’s luggage? If so why wasn't it detected by X-ray examination? If it was shipped as cargo why weren't the freight people warned about the mercury? Who is going to get pilloried for this infraction?

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Old 26th Apr 2004, 18:07
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As the mercury appears to have been transported on the flight and was discovered on arrival, wonder if the crew got any adverse compass indications during the flight.

I know mercury is a no-no aboard aircraft, but apart from the magnetism issue can one of our chemists here explain what is the problem if it is spilled on the structure. Is it corrosive ? Didn't a Far East operator have a widebody written off some years ago due to such a spillage ?
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Old 26th Apr 2004, 18:36
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Mercury is a virulent poison that is readily absorbed through the respiratory tract or through unbroken skin. It acts as a cumulative poison since only small amounts of the element can be eliminated at a time. The present accepted threshold limit for Mercury in air is 0.05 mg m-3. (NB. air saturated with mercury vapour at 20°C exceeds the toxic limit by 100 times). High concentration of vapour may cause a metallic taste, nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhoea and headache. Chronic effects from continual exposure to small concentrations can cause severe nervous disturbance, insomnia, loss of memory, irritability and depression. Loosening of teeth, dermatitis and kidney damage are possible in severe prolonged absorption.

Mercury can react with ammonia to produce an explosive solid. It can cause severe corrosion problems because of its ease in forming amalgams. Reacts violently with dry Bromine.

Hatters were "mad" due to the effects of mercury vapours
Old 26th Apr 2004, 19:35
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Mercury is a metal solvent

Since mercury is a molten metal, many other metals including a/c aluminum dissolve into it.

The fluid will flow into seams and rivet holes and things will start coming loose
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Old 26th Apr 2004, 20:07
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about those hatters...

I always thought it was the glue-sniffing that was supposed to have made them mad?

Never met one though...
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Old 26th Apr 2004, 21:05
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Thumbs up You are all wrong regarding mercury and aircraft structure.

When mercury comes in contact with a metal it will form an amalgam which creates a localized hard spot. It alters the stress paths and forms a concentrated stress riser that can lead to cracks and or fractures. It is for this same reason that mercury thermometers can not be used on submarines.

Mercury although no longer in wide uses was used to amalgamate silver when used in tooth fillings. The mercury in combination with silver pellets is placed in a small container, which is placed in a “Wiggle bug” which vibrates the two metals until they are combined. The dentist will place this amalgam in a chamois. The chamois is twisted to remove the mercury and the remaining silver amalgam is put into the tooth. I’m not that smart, my brother is a dentist.

Molten metal????

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Old 26th Apr 2004, 23:26
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It is a metal, in the same group as magnesium, zinc and cadmium. It just happens to be in a molten state and evaporates at normal room temperatures. You can see the highly toxic vapor with UV light. It certainly amalgamates with aircraft alloys.
Where did this stuff come from? It is sealed in some lamp units, tilt switches etc as well as the more visible use in thermometers and barometers.
Was it on a HazMat list? If not, why not.
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Old 27th Apr 2004, 01:00
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Thumbs up I goofed. My memory banks have been depleted.

I'm sorry about my question regarding Mercury being in the molten state. I was thinking about molten equating to high temperature. I soon remembered my high school chemistry where we reduced Mecuric oxide to Mercury and oxygen by applying heat from a Bunsen burner.

I'll now retire to the corner and don my dunce cap.

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Old 27th Apr 2004, 12:06
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Baggage handlers taken to hospital!!!???

Sounds like the usual ridiculous British overreaction to a "virulent poison" - oh dear... What were they doing, licking the baggage hold clean???

Yes, mercury has some pretty unpleasant effects if ingested but then so do lots of other things. It is hardly a "virulent poison" though, and it certainly is not magnetic in any shape or form.

As Lu said, generations of schoolkids have reduced mercuric oxide over bunsen burners and suffered no ill effects - vapour visible in UV notwithstanding, I clearly recall regularly chasing globules of mercury around the Chem lab desks - the place must have been stiff with the stuff...But we did know to wash hands afterwards. Don't they do washing hands in belfast?

And I'm struck with the thought that it is a very good thing that there was no dry bromine spilled on board at the same time...just imagine! Perhaps they were just lucky and the bromine on board was wet...

I bet the company concerned has some engineering headaches now though, the corrosion issue is a very serious one, and as generations of us know mercury has an amazing way of scuttering off into distant corners and splitting into lots of tiny droplets that are the very devil to clean up.
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Old 27th Apr 2004, 14:36
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total loss of a MAS widebody a few years ago due to mercury contamination, how often is mercury transported and how well is it flagged for the handlers??
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Old 28th Apr 2004, 08:28
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Agaricus is bringing a degree of sanity to the discussion - is this allowed?

The ancient Romans actually ingested the stuff as a laxative......I knew a guy who in the course of medical experiments had a tube containing the stuff burst in his stomach, and he said that the ancient Romans certainly had an effective answer to constipation. Gave him a somewhat 'heavy' feeling!

I figure the real worry is, as so many have said, the corrosion problem.
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Old 28th Apr 2004, 08:44
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As mentioned above, mercury causes massive structural problems once it comes in to contact with aircraft parts.

Biggest problem though is the extreme difficulty in tracing where it has come in to contact, and what parts are affected, and thus which parts are due to be repaired/replaced.

Apparently, this is exasperated by the fact that 'visually', there is no change to the metal, apart from, as mentioned above, the changes to its structure and how it copes (or not!) with stress loads.

Southern Air Transport had a B747Classic Freighter which they had to declare an insurance right off after a mercury spill (approx 1995/6). The aircraft subsequently re-entered service with ???? (Polar?) but this was subject to massive question marks as to whether it was fully repaired or not. Not sure what happened to it since...
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Old 28th Apr 2004, 16:09
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Mercury - Chemical contamination

Agaricus seems to be unaware of the significant hazard that can arise from chemical contamination. In my own case I am still significantly effected by such an event.

If individuals do not treat contamination with due caution they may end up with long term ill health or worse. Safety is suposed to be the bedrock of our operations, not a cavalier disregard for basic principles, common sense and the law.

Before going near a chemical, ask to see the COSHH assessment AND the Risk Assessment. Follow these guidelines. You also have the right to see the chemical manufacturers safety data sheet. Your employer may not know what they are doing or their obligations under the law. You and your passengers are the ones at risk, not someone in an office. I learnt this the hard way.
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Old 28th Apr 2004, 21:46
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I'm not a chemist, but was a bit curious about the stuff after reading this thread. Quick googled snippet...

"Aluminum is normally protected by an oxide coating which inhibits oxidation. If that oxide coating is removed aluminum is a fairly reactive metal and rapidly reforms the metal oxide on the surface.

Mercury will not usually penetrate that coating but once mercury gets contact (by a scratch or nick) with the aluminum it can be devastating as the mercury dissolves an extremely small amount of aluminum and the aluminum in the amalgam reacts with moisture to form an oxide or hydrous oxide.

This latter reaction depletes the aluminum concentration in the amalgam so over there at the aluminum-mercury interface a little more aluminum dissolves and the reaction behaves like an aluminum pump. The process is kept active because the mercury
is preventing the fresh surface from forming the protective oxide

Even though there is very little aluminum in the amalgam at any given time the process keeps kicking a small amount of aluminum from the metal to an oxide."

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Old 29th Apr 2004, 11:10
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"Socks plus sandals equals beard!"

the mad doctor on the fast show, dr denzil dexter?

Realise its no help to a facinating subject and confirm it was a MAS a/c that was written off due to hull loss concerning the leakage of mercury, think it was A330

Back to the lab now
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Old 29th Apr 2004, 12:47
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It seems there is some detail about the Malaysian A330, 5 years old at the time, that had to be written off after chemicals were spilled here:


Not certain what "hydroxy quino-line" is, presumably a mercury compound.
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Old 29th Apr 2004, 13:05
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Appearance: white crystalline powder
Stable. Combustible. Incompatible with strong oxidizing agents, many metal ions. Readily forms chelates .

Harmful by ingestion, inhalation and through skin contact. CNS stimulant. There is evidence that this material can cause cancer in laboratory animals. May act as a mutagen in humans. May act as an irritant.
Toxicity data
(The meaning of any toxicological abbreviations which appear in this section is given here .)
ORL-RAT LD50 1200 mg kg-1
ORL-MUS LD50 20000 mg kg-1
IPR-MUS LD50 43 mg kg-1
SCU-MUS LD50 84 mg kg-1
UNR-MAM LD50 1000 mg kg-1

Personal protection
Safety glasses and gloves. Adequate ventilation

The Physical and Theoretical Chemistry Laboratory
Oxford University Chemical and Other Safety Information

Last edited by Joe.Phoenix; 29th Apr 2004 at 13:19.
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