Aluminium Phosphide Explosion on Maersk Kinloss

During cargo operations at Ilyichevsk, Ukraine, on 17th July 2012 dock workers noticed a container in hold with obvious signs of damages suffered by explosion. The said container was carrying aluminium phosphide.

South part of Illichvsk port area by Brian Dell

Full details and images can be found at http://www.odin.tc/news/read.asp?articleID=1113

Aluminium Phosphide is listed in IMDG Code as UN 1397, ALUMINIUM PHOSPHIDE, Class 4.3/6.1. Observation states “Reacts with acids or decomposes slowly in contact with water or damp air, evolving phosphine, a spontaneously flammable and highly toxic gas. Stowage requirement of this cargo is Category E. Under deck in a mechanically ventilated space. Clear of living quarters.

Aluminium Phosphide is widely used as rodenticide, insecticide, and as fumigant. Aluminium phosphide pellets mixed with food is kept for rodents, once inside their stomach this chemical will react with gastric acids and generate phosphine a highly toxic and flammable gas.

Rat (Rattus norvegicus) eating sunflower seads, Photo by Martin Hvidberg
Rat (Rattus norvegicus) eating sunflower seads, Photo by Martin Hvidberg

Aluminium phosphide pesticide is classified under UN 3048 Class 6.1 which does not have the tendency of class 4.3.

Don’t kill all the rats, they can be delicious too 🙂

Rat meat with vegetables, Yangshuo, Guangxi, China. Photo by Hector Garcia
Rat meat with vegetables, Yangshuo, Guangxi, China. Photo by Hector Garcia

Aluminium phosphide is also used in electronic industries.

Green LED
Green LED (Photo credit: Andres Rueda)

In Indian subcontinent  there is a large proportion of poisoning by aluminium phosphide. The overall mortality rate found in the study “Incidence & outcome of aluminium phosphide poisoning in a hospital study” by Department of Medicine, Medical College & Hospital, Rohtak, India, is 77.2 per cent.