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Brake cleaner = phosgene danger

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Brake cleaner = phosgene danger

Old 02-08-12, 06:56 PM
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auchencrow
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Brake cleaner = phosgene danger

A friend of mine keyed me into the article linked below, on the dangers associated with brake cleaner. I am relaying it as a public service.

- It describes in graphic detail what happened to one bicycle frame builder when his torch came too close to just a few drops of that substance.

The article underscores the potential hazard/lethality associated with many common chemicals. So the admonition here is to always read the label - or risk death and disability.

https://www.brewracingframes.com/id75.htm
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Old 02-08-12, 07:26 PM
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Woah. Was spraying that stuff here recently. Always hate how it smells. Thanks for the heads up.
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Old 02-08-12, 07:30 PM
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We had this in our welding test last semester and this semester. It's also better known as Mustard Gas. It usually gives off a wet hay musty kind of odor. Another thing folks and framebuilders should be aware of is the hazards of Hexavalent Chromium. This is release when grinding, cutting, heating, welding, brazing of stainless or chromoly steel. If you ever saw Erin Brockavich then you'll have an idea of how nasty this stuff is. Being Chromium is a heavy metal it is not released from the body and permenantly stays inside of you and is quite cancerous.

You can use brake cleaner to clean your metal but then you need to use something to clean off the brake cleaner.
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Old 02-08-12, 07:44 PM
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WOW scary stuff!

I have a mig welder and I have OFTEN used brake cleaner to remove oils on parts I later welded. Passing this on to my gear head friends.

Thanks for posting this.

Last edited by Grim; 02-08-12 at 07:51 PM.
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Old 02-08-12, 07:45 PM
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A chemist in the lab next to mine once dropped a bottle of triphosgene, a solid form of phosgene and a bit safer to work with. 500 grams of it all over the floor and he wants to mop it up. That would have been a bad day.

Phosgene will react with the moisture in your lungs to create hydrogen chloride and that will burn your lungs, causing you to suffocate. In a horribly painful and slow fashion.

Tetrachloroethylene, or Perc, is not readily available. A 20oz can of Brakleen costs over $70. Use the cheaper stuff and keep the TIG welder in the shed.
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Old 02-08-12, 07:48 PM
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Always read the MSDS forms for the substance you are dealing with, they are available for any substance free on line.

Phosgene gas was used in WWI



Tom

Last edited by Anthropy; 02-08-12 at 08:03 PM.
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Old 02-08-12, 08:20 PM
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"Brake Cleaner" can be several different formulas. The non-flammable chlorinated ones are what do the phosgene thing. I stay away from chlorinated solvents & use a heptane-based solvent. It is flammable, but doesn't turn into poison gas.
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Old 02-08-12, 10:42 PM
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Originally Posted by bbattle View Post
Tetrachloroethylene, or Perc, is not readily available. A 20oz can of Brakleen costs over $70.
Where? It's $3 on Amazon. Sounds like a terrible (and easy) way to kill yourself accidentally!
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Old 02-08-12, 10:48 PM
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As a sometimes defender of using various chemicals to do certain tasks, this is a great reminder. A lot of chemicals, even those "safe" ones you find in your home, can be dangerous. Mixing chemicals, heating them up, burning or whatever, can have consequences, bad ones. Proper care and caution is merited. When in doubt, don't. And just because it is sold at Walmart, or your local grocery store, does not mean it does not have potential hazards.
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Old 02-09-12, 05:42 AM
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Originally Posted by wrk101 View Post
As a sometimes defender of using various chemicals to do certain tasks, this is a great reminder. A lot of chemicals, even those "safe" ones you find in your home, can be dangerous. Mixing chemicals, heating them up, burning or whatever, can have consequences, bad ones. Proper care and caution is merited. When in doubt, don't. And just because it is sold at Walmart, or your local grocery store, does not mean it does not have potential hazards.

Well said, Thrifty Bill.

Heating, or mixing just a few drops of "safe" household chemicals or cleaners can have serious unintended consequences.
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Old 02-09-12, 05:57 AM
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Just in case anyone's not aware, mixing bleach and ammonia can kill you as well....
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Old 02-09-12, 06:04 AM
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I guess any day I will drop dead. I have been a professional Auto techincian for 40 years. I have used brake cleaner by the gallons and other very dangerous chemicals........
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Old 02-09-12, 06:16 AM
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Kind of surprising the still sell stuff like this. I tried brake cleaner once, many years ago, and thought it smelled like death in a can.
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Old 02-09-12, 06:19 AM
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I wear gloves and use a respirator, and plenty of ventilation.
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Old 02-09-12, 06:45 AM
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Good to know! I'll have to check the brake cleaner my wife picked up last night - I think she grabbed the more expensive non-chlorinated one. Sounds like it may be worth the extra buck a can.
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Old 02-09-12, 07:47 AM
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Would it be a good idea to have a sticky in this forum to warn about the possible hazards of using the chemicals that are so often discussed here. Just a general warning. I know it's our own responsibility and all that to read what's on the can but still... if it saves someone getting hurt.
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Old 02-09-12, 11:25 AM
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My first job out of college was with a Design/Build Contractor in WI building large scale architectural and construction models for their project where everyone, including the bosses thought it wasn't macho if you wear respirators when you mess around with chimcals. It really sucked when we had to even ask the bosses to provide masks and repirators in our shop and the old time mechanics and carpenters just laughed and shook their heads at us young guys just out of school. What is bad was, we had to breath in some of the really nasty fumes from the mastic we used to glue our construction models with for quite a while before the respirators were bought. I still think the bad effects of that exposure will eventually rear it's head one day.....
I still remember watching the head mechanic weld up brackets under a compressor trailer that was leaking deisel fuel all over the shop floor. I had to kick his leg to tell him that the welding sparks ignited the deisel and oil right next to his leg that was starting to also catch on fire. The guy calmly skooched out from under the trailer, stood up and patted down his leg like he was just brushing off some dust from his pants, didn't bother with the extinguisher just an arm's legnth next to him but just dumps some of the oil absorbing kitty litter on the growing oil fire under the trailer. This was the same guy who told me that the epoxy paint he sprays the equipment with will kill your liver.......but he just sometimes uses a plain paper mask when he sprays on the paint.......A walking hazardous waste susper site his body must be....I always wonder if he's still alive...

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Last edited by Chombi; 02-09-12 at 11:29 AM.
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Old 02-09-12, 01:58 PM
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One of the reasons I always wear gloves when working on bikes now, my skin can't handle the chemicals at all.

I used to use kerosene to clean bike parts because it really does do a fantastic job but after jhaving a tear in the finger of one glove I started getting a rash on one finger that wouldn't go away and now almost any petroleum based product will make that area of skin break out almost right away.

Brakleen is particularly nasty, a friend of my fathers started hs race car on fire with it once just by spraying an area of the engine that was still hot.

Nothing will knock a wasp out of the sky faster than a shot of chlorinated brake clean either, wicked nasty stuff, one shot and they're down so what does that tell you about how it might affect your own lungs?


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Old 02-09-12, 04:35 PM
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I picked up this quote on another site where someone was asking why mixing ammonia and bleach was hazardous, after all, they are both just "household" cleaners.

Just because two have that in common does not mean they are the same. An apple is red. A fire truck is red. They have that in common, but you can’t make a pie out of a fire truck.
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Old 02-09-12, 05:36 PM
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Originally Posted by bbattle View Post
Phosgene will react with the moisture in your lungs to create hydrogen chloride and that will burn your lungs, causing you to suffocate. In a horribly painful and slow fashion.
That was the intended effect - on the Western Front in World War I. Seriously. For a while, phosgene was the gas warfare weapon of choice.

"Better living through chemistry" indeed.
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Old 02-09-12, 05:57 PM
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When training with my MIG welder that was my first thing to pay attention to.....chlorofloro's and arc. Mustard gas just like WW1. Deadly.
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Old 02-09-12, 10:13 PM
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Originally Posted by wrk101 View Post
I picked up this quote on another site where someone was asking why mixing ammonia and bleach was hazardous, after all, they are both just "household" cleaners.
.
For those few remaining readers unaware, the reaction produces chlorine gas.

NO brake cleaner in my house, and no welding equipment, MIG or otherwise, and I wear rubber gloves even when using Barkeeper's Friend. However, thank you for the timely reminder, and I'm rechecking the labels on some of the other chemicals I use, such as engine cleaner and Bug Off.
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Old 02-09-12, 10:32 PM
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Geesh. I used to subscribe to the philosophy of "better living through chemistry". Then in grad school, my mantra changed to "better living through organic chemistry". Now my mantra is "better living through organic food". Ditch the chemicals, man. You don't need 'em.
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Old 02-10-12, 03:42 AM
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Thanks for posting. I still use acetone for some things but most of my cleaning is done with kero or my new favorite cleaner "incredible pink" safe and available at auto parts stores.
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Old 02-10-12, 07:34 AM
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Originally Posted by southpawboston View Post
Geesh. I used to subscribe to the philosophy of "better living through chemistry". Then in grad school, my mantra changed to "better living through organic chemistry". Now my mantra is "better living through organic food". Ditch the chemicals, man. You don't need 'em.
yeah but, how do you clean bike parts with organic muffins?
Seriously though, I try to keep the chems manageable, but do use kerosene, like Frank. One other problem with all of this nasty crap is disposal. I'm going to check into some of that Incredible Pink, thanks Frank.
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