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July 1, 2002
Volume 80, Number 26
CENEAR 80 26 p. 7
ISSN 0009-2347


Two Seriously Injured At Pfizer Research Site

A drum containing borane dissolved in tetrahydrofuran exploded on the morning of Tuesday, June 25, at Pfizer's Groton, Conn., research complex, putting five people in the hospital--two in serious condition. Others were treated on-site for minor injuries.

According to a company spokesman, the blast and subsequent fire severely damaged a warehouse used to store chemicals for a nearby pilot plant that makes drugs for clinical trials. Firefighters rushed to the scene and quickly put out the fire.

The explosion blew out windows at the pilot plant, but it did not sustain heavy damage. While the plant is down, Pfizer can draw on inventories and other pilot plants to continue clinical trials, the spokesman says.

Following the explosion, about 900 people were evacuated from nearby buildings; the rest of the site's 4,500 employees--including researchers, administrators, and production workers at a small manufacturing facility--continued to work.

However, emergency personnel monitoring five other drums of the borane-tetrahydrofuran reagent found them to be under higher-than-expected pressure. As a precaution, fire officials evacuated residents from the immediate vicinity. Pfizer's Groton site was closed on Wednesday to everyone except essential personnel. Area residents were back home by Thursday, but the site remained closed.


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Slugs and snails have a new enemy: caffeine [Nature, 417, 915 (2002)]. The concentration of caffeine present in a cup of coffee is more than enough to deter slugs from feeding on cabbage. Higher concentrations kill the critters.

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