Warning Concerning Outcomes of Beirut Blast
A post has been shared via social media written by Associate Professor of analytical chemistry Najat Saliba from AUB concerning outcome of the blast, and how people should act accordingly.
The smoke from the blast contains lots of toxic particles and gases. The most dangerous are the fine particles that cannot be stopped by regular masks and the gases like NO2 and all its organic derivatives that will linger and react in the air for a while. In a high relative humidity and stagnant weather, like in Beirut, NO2 in the air leads to nitric acid. However, the presence of ammonia from ammonium nitrate will neutralize part of the nitric acid. The other source of pollution is the deposited toxic dust that will be entrained and resuspended in the air as people move, drive, and sweep.
The immediate consequences, for the most vulnerable population: elderlies and children, are difficulty to breathe in addition to eye and skin irritations. To protect yourself you can do the followings:
1. Send the elderlies and children to a safer place away from the blasted site, and if this is not possible, keep them in a cleaner environment (see below) indoors.
2. Wash your hands, face, and exposed skin with soap and water several times during the day
3. Clean all home indoor surfaces well with wet towels to swipe the deposited particles and avoid its dispersion in the air. Make sure you dry it afterwards as wet surfaces are a good medium for NO2 to deposit and react.
4. If you have a dehumidifier, use it more at home to reduce the possibility of forming nitric acid indoors
5. Wear masks especially when cleaning the dust and when going outside
6. Wear thick gloves to protect your hands from fine particles of shattered glass
7. Sweep the dust with a vacuum cleaner and not with a broom after removing all large size pieces of glass and other debris
8. Spray water outdoors like open balconies and garden as much as possible and whenever possible to help particles deposit faster
Dr. Najat Saliba