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Re: E-M:/ Dow Corning Release - Hydrogen Chloride

Enviro-Mich message from Rane Curl <ranecurl@engin.umich.edu>

I have no inside information, but to respond as a chemica engineer to
some of Jonathan's questions:

On Fri, 22 Aug 1997, Jonathan P Kazmierski wrote:

> I do not know any more about the release other than what has been reported
> in the following article in the Midland Daily News.  As many friends of
> mine live close to the area that was misted with the release, I have
> become very concerned about their health.  This article reports that
> fruits and vegetable that "have the residue" of hydrogen chloride " are
> safe to eat if properly washed.  Does anyone know how true this claim is
> or if the release can cause any other short term or long term health
> problems?  The article also notes that rain has helped wash the residue
> off vegetation and that crews have been washing off homes.  The
> contaminated area is all along the shores of the Tittabawasee River.  Will
> there be any harm done to the aquatic environment as the chemical washes
> into the river? soil contamination?  
>  Thank you for your help.  

Trichlorosilane (SiH(Cl)3) reacts spontaneously with water or water vapor
to make *silica* (SiO2), a solid, and hydrochloric acid (HCl) gas, or a
mist of acidic water droplets. The silica is not toxic - it is, in effect,
a very fine "sand" - although it may have some health effects as
particulate matter, if breathed. The hydrochloric acid is very irritating
and corrosive but not "toxic" beyond that (it is the acid produced in the
stomach as a normal digestive agent). The acid is sold as a water solution
sometimes (unfortunately) called "muriatic acid", and used for (for
example) cleaning lime residues from bricks. Its acidity is, of course,
also hazardous to all forms of life, both plant and animal, until it is
sufficiently diluted. 

--Rane L. Curl

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