Ethanol, not cyanide, is culprit that sickens UPS driver yesterday in Menlo Park

by Contributed Content on October 3, 2018

Responding to a medical aid call yesterday, Menlo Park Fire District personnel found a 41-year-old male next to a United Parcel Service (UPS) delivery vehicle. He identified himself as the driver and stated that he believed that he had been exposed to some type of chemical spill inside the back of the vehicle.

The UPS driver was transported by ambulance to the hospital with a primary complaint of respiratory difficulties, while firefighters and police officers cleared the immediate area. Battalion Chief Chris Pimentel requested a full-scale hazardous materials response bringing in specially trained San Mateo/Belmont fFirefighters, expert in hazardous material identification and response.

Representatives from UPS arrived on-scene and identified the suspected product as Benzonitril from a material safety data sheet located in the cab of the delivery van. The product, also known as Atheno Cyanide, is described as a highly toxic solid compound.

Employees at lLocal businesses in close proximity to the UPS delivery truck were advised to shelter in place by firefighters while Menlo Park police officers blocked off Bohannon Drive and redirected traffic around the incident.

The County Hazardous Materials Team arrived on-scene and determined that the spill was completely contained to the vehicle. Battalion Chief Pimentel decided to downgrade the incident, releasing many of the units, lifting the shelter in place, and allowing UPS’s to use its own private contractor, NRCC, to properly identify and mitigate the spilled product.

When the NRCC Clean-Up Team arrived on-scene, they made entry into the delivery vehicle in fully protected self-contained exposure suits. Then they videotaped the inside of the delivery vehicle. On inspection of the video tape, it showed that a different package containing one gallon of Ethanol was responsible for the actual leak.

Over half of the container was empty leaking out onto multiple packages, but fortunately not onto the Benzonitril package. With firefighters standing by in decontamination gear and wearing self-contained breathing apparatus, the NRCC Entry Team recovered the leaking Ethanol package placing it in a 55 gallon containment cylinder along with other contaminated packages. They then recovered the non-damaged Benzonitril package.

Photo courtesy of Menlo Fire


One Comment

Phil McHale October 04, 2018 at 12:41 am

Perhaps you and UPS should consult with a chemist in situations like this to ensure accurate reporting. Benzonitrile (correct spelling) is a liquid, not a solid, and it is not also known as “atheno cyanide” – this name makes no chemical sense.

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