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OSHA Hazard Information Bulletins
Spills of Cumene Hydroperoxide

September 22, 1987




  • Director
  • Office of Field Programs


  • Director
  • Directorate of Technical Support


  • Health Hazard Information Bulletin: Spills of Cumene Hydroperoxide

Region II has brought to our attention a discrepancy in recommendations for cleaning up spills of cumene hydroperoxide. The Hazardous Chemical Data Section of the Fire Protection Guide on Hazardous Materials, Seventh Edition, pages 49-105 indicates that a non-combustible absorbent, such as vermiculite, should be used. However, a chemical manufacturer of cumene hydroperoxide specifically states in its material safety data sheet on this chemical, "Do not use vermiculite." The Manufacturer suggests the use of soda ash for spill cleanup to maintain the pH high.

Cumene hydroperoxide is a colorless to pale yellow combustible liquid with a sharp irritating odor. It is an oxidizing agent which reacts violently with reducing agents and decomposes exothermally at temperature above 50°C in 70-80 percent concentrations. Cumene hydroperoxide is known to cause ignition, violent combustion, or explosion when in contact with easily oxidizable substances. The exposure limit for this chemical has not been established.

Vermiculite is a mineral of the mica group but hydrated, and with the property of expanding six to twenty times the volume of the unexpanded mineral when heated to about 2,000°F. It is a hydrated magnesium-aluminum-iron silicate containing approximately 39 percent SiO2, 21 percent MgO, 15 percent Al2O3, 9 percent Fe2O3, 5 to 7 percent K2O, 1 percent CaO, 5 to 9 percent H2O, and small quantities of chromium, manganese, phosphorus, sulfer and chlorine.

Region II investigated an incident in which a company disposed of approximately 45 gallons of cumene hydroperoxide by using a clay like material called "Zip Zorb" as an absorbent and stored the mix in covered 5 gallon polyethylene pails. The Material Safety Data Sheet for "Zip Zorb" indicates that it contains hydrated magnesium aluminum silicate. The "Zip Zorb" and the cumene hydroperoxide stored in the polyethylene pails reacted and generated enough heat to melt the pails and released gases that required a local evacuation.

The discrepancy has been discussed with the Chairman of the NFPA Committee 49 "Properties of Hazardous Chemicals" for consideration in the next revision of Hazardous Chemical Data NFPA 49.

We recommend that compliance and consultation personnel be aware of the hazard addressed in this bulletin. Please disseminate this information to Area Office, State Plan States and Consultation Project Officers.

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