Warning issued on cannisters on beaches

From Chris Dunagan’s blog site, Watching our Waterways. Also link to original info at http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/spills/incidents/ocean_shores/ocean_shores.html


Washington departments of Ecology and Agriculture are reissuing a warning that first came out in March of 2008 regarding metal canisters washing up on ocean beaches.

Canisters found on ocean beaches may contain dangerous aluminum phosphide.
Department of Ecology photo

The canisters are the type that often contain aluminum phosphide, a chemical that turns into poisonous phospine gas when exposed to moisture. This gas is commonly used to kill insects and other pests on cargo ships.

The problem comes about if someone finds one of these canisters with the lid still on. If the person then opens the canister, he or she may breathe the residual phosphine gas.

I’m not sure anyone can predict potential exposures, because it would depend on the amount of aluminum phosphide or phosphine in the canister. But I found the following info in medical management guidelines issued by the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry:

“Phosphine is a respiratory tract irritant that attacks primarily the cardiovascular and respiratory systems causing peripheral vascular collapse, cardiac arrest and failure, and pulmonary edema.”

In other words, this stuff is nothing to mess around with. Lots of folks walk the ocean beaches in winter. If you find a canister like this, keep the lid on and alert authorities.