Combustible Dust the Source of Explosion at Chinese Auto Plant

Dangerous levels of combustible dust is the primary cause of an Aug. 2 explosion that killed 75 people in a Chinese automobile parts factory.  

Combustible Dust the Source of Explosion at Chinese Auto Plant

ABC News reported dust produced from polishing steel hubcaps ignited Saturday morning at the Kunshan Zhongrong Metal Products Company factory causing an explosion that destroyed almost the entire roof of the plant. The dust stuck to the skin of workers, causing burns over much of their bodies. In addition to the deaths, about 190 people were injured in the blast, most suffering burns.

Workers allegedly complained about the high levels of dust at the factory, China's official Xinhua News Agency said.

In the absence of good ventilation a buildup of heat, oxygen and a material, often dusty particles such as pulverized metal, can spark massive explosions without warning, The Wall Street Journal reported. Dust particles typically hover in the air and can then be ignited by a spark or overheated equipment, causing an explosion.

The plant specialized in postproduction preparation of aluminum car wheels before they are shipped to auto makers, including General Motors.

The Wall Street Journal reported industrial accidents are common in China and often result in loss of life. Last month month in the southern city Haiko, four died as a result of an accident blamed on improper storage of chemicals at a pharmaceutical maker. More than 100 were killed in a poultry factory fire in mid-2013 in China after being trapped behind locked doors.

Here in the United States combustible dust was the source of n explosion that claimed three lives at AL Metal in 2010. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board has called for a national standard regarding combustible dust. The CSB has investigated nine fatal combustible dust explosions and fires since 2003 that have claimed a total of 36 lives and injured 128 more. None of those investigations have yet involved wood products manufacturing plant.


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