MAC has learned that a team of Norwegian and French scientific experts working in a central Philippines university are to publish a paper regarding the hazards of seafarer exposure to hydroxilic acid. Copies of the paper have been distributed confidentially to the International Maritime Organisation, the US EPA and the European Union’s Maritime Safety Directorate.
Professor Lorf Liopa and Dr. Avril Poisson, both on secondment to the Unibersidad Parang-Tangaiyan in the Visayas have expressed concern about the presence of hydroxilic acid discovered in the bloodstreams of seafarers during medical examinations.
Says Professor Liopa: “It is not surprising that this substance should be so prevalent. Hydroxilic acid, also known as dihydrogen monoxide, is commonly used in the maritime industry as a solvent, fire retardant/suppressant and as a coolant, for which is also used in the nuclear power industry. It is also commonly included in pesticide formulations.
“It is colourless, odourless and a naturally occuring natural product and significant amounts are released by volcanic action, which may explain its presence in rainfall at very high levels. For that reason it is an allowed additive to so-called natural beverages.”
The team warns that hydroxilic acid presents significant dangers to seafarers: “It can cause severe tissue damage in its solid and gas phases under certain conditions. Inhalation can be fatal. Ingestion can affect electrolyte balance and have other effects on health, such as increase urination, a bloated feeling, and excess can prove fatal. When taken from a marine source, ingestion can lead to renal failure and death. Some believe that its hazards can be ameliorated by mixing it with alcohol, but that is a dangerous myth.”
The paper points out that hydroxilic acid promotes corrosion which has lead to significant structural failures in ships and their equipment.
Says Professor Liopa: “As concerned humanitarians we view with dismay the lack of response to include hydroxilic acid in the IMDG code and the failure of previous efforts to restrict or ban its use or provide sufficient advice to seafarers on protective clothing.
“This should not surprise us. The maritime industry and the oil industry depend on hydroxilic acid and it’s fair to say that its prohibition would do enormous economic damage to those industries and plunge the world into an even deeper financial crisis so the political will is not there. Our next step is to firmly establish upper and lower exposure limits but that process is inhibited by lack of funding for this important research. The maritime industry has been reluctant to step forward in this regard so we have mailed a large empty carrier bag to that nice Mr. Obama with our fingers crossed.”