Understanding the EH&S Dangers of Sodium Azide
Sodium azide can be an extreme chemical safety hazard when released into a facility’s plumbing infrastructure. Many healthcare institutions and life science organizations have hemostatis systems and blood coagulation equipment that utilize diluting fluid or preservative that contain low concentrations of sodium azide. Though the concentration of sodium azide in the solution is low, the discharges may buildup azide salts in the plumbing system. Buildup of sodium azide commonly occurs in pipe fittings, threading, and p-traps. Sodium azide has the potential to react with metals commonly found in the plumbing infrastructure, such as copper and lead, to form insoluble metallic azides – a highly explosive and shock sensitive compound. Explosion can occur when the metal azides experience friction, heat, or shock; or come in contact with other chemicals.
Make certain you’re taking the proper precautions to ensure the safety and health of your facility and its occupants. Follow these steps to mitigate risk associated with sodium azide discharge in your plumbing and piping.
Schedule a Chemical Risk Assessment
A chemical risk assessment of the plumbing system is the first step to ensuring the health and safety of your facility. During the assessment, an experienced professional will inspect the plumbing, piping, drain lines, sink traps, and wastewater systems within your facility to determine the impact that sodium azide discharge has had on your systems. A chemical risk assessment will dictate if any further actions are needed, such as testing, modifying discharge procedures, and/or remediation.
Another concern when discharging sodium azide is the use of fittings that are not compatible or consistent with the manufacturers specifications, which can lead to metal azide formation.
Should a potentially hazardous scenario be detected from the inspection, the experienced professional will recommend decontamination or remediation, and develop a detailed plan to improve chemical safety at your facility.
Ensure Proper Sodium Azide Discharge Management
If the assessment proves that the plumbing does not contain metal azides, but your procedures and operations present the possibility of sodium azide in piping – ensure that you are enforcing proper discharge management.
A rinse procedure following discharge and routine decontamination can help keep explosive azides from forming in your piping. Check with the equipment manufacturer for decontamination practices as they may differ from one manufacturer to the next. It may also be advised to use copper-free or lead-free piping, solder, or fittings; and azide-free reagents.
Explicitly Communicate Potential Hazards
There have been scenarios where unknown azide hazards have led to serious injuries for unsuspecting workers clearing obstructions with snakes, or cutting pipes to fix plumbing problems. Maintenance workers should not perform any work on metal piping components when sodium azide may be present. Ensure that all workers are aware of the potential hazard by properly communicating the hazard through safety notifications and labeling on the systems. Be sure to utilize bright warning labels where necessary.
Sodium azide in piping and wastewater systems presents a serious environmental, health, and safety hazard. Ensure that your facility is safe and its occupants are performing the proper chemical safety procedures including sodium azide management practices. Get started with an assessment.