Why is ammonium perchlorate dangerous?

Ammonium perchlorate is an inorganic chemical compound, often created in laboratories with military purposes, for the aerospace industry or for pyrotechnics in the creation of fireworks. It´s a powerful oxidizer as well as a big and efficient catalyst in specific reactions, helping in the generation of thrust force. Can you imagine why is ammonium perchlorate dangerous?


Ammonium perchlorate: hazard

Ammonium perchlorate is considered a hazard for its characteristics, being possible for it to explode or to trigger a fire if poorly handled, storaged or packaged. This chemical compound is also classified as a type 1.1 explosive in the Explosives Shipping Classification System, that explains and determines how dangerous is to carry and distribute a particular explosive. Type 1.1. explosives are the most dangerous ones, triggering big explosions and fires if exposed to heat surfaces or sources, as well as any kind of combustible or flammable substance.

For this reason, ammonium perchlorate must be handled and storaged following very strict rules related to the spaces they must be kept and even the distance between packages in order to avoid any possible chain reaction and explosion.

In Aldebarán Sistemas S.L. we work following the stablished general rules and creating our own ones to achieve the maximum level of safety and efficiency.

Ammonium perchlorate: toxic substance

The risks that come with handling ammonium perchlorate not only stop in avoiding any kind of explosion or fire, but it´s also important to know how to handle this substance, and how to act when we have made contact with ammonium perchlorate for more time than necessary or in an incorrect way.

Ammonium perchlorate is a very toxic substance, very damaging for humans, animals and for the environment. This substance can cause eye and skin irritation, and very dangerous situations if swallowed. Other skin affections can lead to dermatitis and blisters, and also breathing difficulties or even uncounsciousness if inhaled. With the aim of treating this kind of situations and so as to achieve the wellness of the affected person, Aldebarán Sistemas S.L. counts with a very complete prevention and action sheet that explains the procedure to follow under this kind of circumstances.


The PEPCON accident with ammonium perchlorate

In May, 1988, a terrible accident occurred at the chemical plant of the Pacific Engineering and Production Company of Nevada or PEPCON, in Henderson (Nevada). PEPCON was a company specialised in the production and manufacture of ammonium perchlorate, distributing it for uses as important as the Space Shuttle. Apart from ammonium perchlorate, the manufacturer was in charge of producing other dangerous substances, such as sodium perchlorate.

The accident happened when some employers were asked to repair a steel structure with blowtorches. Accidentally, some of the fiberglass covering the wall caught fire, and, unsuccessfully, the workers tried to put the fire out, leading to a fire that wouldn´t stop growing, reaching the ammonium perchlorate storage area. Around 10 minutes after the fire started, the first explosion chain took place, proceeding the workers to evacuate the area.

There were a total of seven explosions, given that not only the ones related to the ammonium perchlorate storaged happened, but also another two related to aluminum and another one related to a gas pipe that crossed the whole manufature plant. This last one was only ended when the gas valve was closed.

How could the Utah incident have been avoided according to Aldebarán Sistemas S.L.?

There are some mistakes that happened in PEPCON and that should been avoided. Probably, the most important one was the construction of a building destinated to these activities on the top of a gas pipe, not taking into account one of the most important aspects of handling safely ammonium perchlorate: keeping it away from combustible or flammable substances.

Another mistake that took place was the risk of a massive chain explosion, as the plant was built not even three kilometers away from another chemical plant dedicated to manufacture the same element.

During the work done by the employers, they didn´t take into account the considerations required in order to maintain the plant safe and avoiding any kind of accident. This could have happened for an incorrect prevention plan, or for a lack of attention.

In Aldebarán Sistemas S.L., we believe that it´s extremely important to raise every kind of safety measure so as to avoid any kind of incident similar to the one that happened in PEPCON in 1988. It´s crucial to contact a team of experts who understand the risks and the safety measures required to handle it if ammonium perchlorate is needed for any type of activity.