Cylinder cap buzz

The editors

Chemical & Engineering News (19 Aug 1996) Vol. 74, No. 34, pp. 4.

Several readers responded to a chemical safety letter from J. E. Goldsmith concerning bees and wasps gathering around and inside gas cylinder caps during warm-weather months (C&EN, Oct. 2, 1995, page 4).

Roy-Keith Smith of Apichemical Consultants in Douglasville, Ga., wrote that the risk from bees and wasps to people handling gas cylinders is "vanishingly small." The only insect likely to choose a cylinder cap as a nest, he says, is the paper wasp - a docile insect unlikely to sting humans. Smith stings C&EN with the charge that, while battling chemophobia - the irrational fear of chemicals - it has promoted entomophobia, the irrational fear of insects.

Other writers promoted and refined the idea of using wire screens or plastic netting to prevent bees and wasps from nesting in cylinder caps. Kevin M. O'Connor, health and safety compliance officer for W. R. Grace, in Columbia, Md., for instance, tells about a gas supplier that examined the feasibility of outfitting cylinders with plastic netting, primarily to prevent cylinder damage during loading and unloading.

During the examination, O'Connor reports, an executive for the gas-supply firm was stung by a bee. "The installation of a plastic netting product [available commercially] was instituted by the gas supplier around all cylinder caps," he says. "Our problems with bees and wasps building nests in cylinder caps has been eliminated."

Safety hazards with metallic screens were pointed out by James H. Baker, quality control chemist for the city of Memphis. First, the screen must be small enough to stop insects from entering, yet it must be rugged enough to weld, Baker writes. Moreover, he warns," screening would not be rustproof. Rusty screening may break, resulting in cut hands." In the event of a primary valve failure, he says, pieces of screen may be blown out, posing another serious hazard.

Baker says his shop will experiment with an old sock or a cloth bag tied about the cylinder cap. Meanwhile, S. C. Hwang of the B.O.C. Group Technical Center proposes the use of a section of nylon stocking. "However, if any opening is discovered on the stockings, it indicates that wasps have entered into the cap and the cap should be sprayed with wasp spray before being removed."

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