Case of the Month: Hazmat Vandalism

Nov 1, 2013 by

The insured’s BMW was vandalized by unknown parties using chemicals.   GEI was hired to conduct an environmental analysis of the chemicals that subsequently caused inhalation and skin irritation to the insured while he was driving.

 

201311one

 Our expert scheduled the first meeting with the insured, who had recently moved, at his new residence.   At the meeting, our expert found that the insured had previously been renting a portion of a home.   His former landlord had many cats inside the home.   The insured complained about the cats urinating on the furniture and was evicted. Apparently, the parting of the ways disturbed the former landlord so much that, as alleged by the insured, the homeowner poured or sprayed one or more chemicals over the exterior of the BMW and down into the vehicle doors (passing down past the window seals).

The former landlord also allegedly poured the chemicals into the air intake supply ducting.  The insured believed some type of lachrymatory (tear gas) agent, was used to vandalize his vehicle.   (Side note: lachrymator [from lacrima meaning “tear” in Latin] is a non-lethal chemical weapon that stimulates the corneal nerves in the eyes to cause tears, pain, and even blindness.   Common tear gas compounds include OC, CS, CR, CN (phenyacyl chloride), nonivamide, bromoacetone, xylyl bromide and syn-propanethial-S-oxide [from onions].)   Based upon the insured’s assumption, he cleaned the vehicle by using a gallon container of commercially available tear gas remover.

Our expert inspected the passenger compartment air filter to obtain a sample for chemical analyses. It was located high on the face of the firewall, under the hood, protected by a plastic frame guard.   The insured stated it was new, and he had to throw the old one away.   Our expert concluded that the new filter should not be tested; it had been over 2 1/2 months since the date reported and any volatile chemicals were very likely gone from the filter.   The insured agreed that testing of the new air filter would not be of any value.

 

201311three

Many of the insured’s personal possessions were inside the vehicle when it was vandalized.  The insured claimed that these were also contaminated, so they were put back inside the vehicle prior to air testing.  Our expert used two Summa stainless steel canisters containing a vacuum to collect air samples for testing.

201311four

One canister was put inside the vehicle (right front seat) with the engine idling and the air conditioner working on the high level to sample the interior air of the BMW.   The second canister was used to obtain a background sample outside the vehicle.   The two air samples were taken, analyzed in a laboratory, and the results were tabulated.

(Report Limit under 5ppbv)
Quantitative ppbv
Outside

ug/m3

Inside

ug/m3

Propylene 3.2
Freon (Dichlorodifluoromethane) 2.8 2.7
Chloromethane 1.2 1.2
n-Butadine 2.0 2.3
Ethanol 5.7 5.4
Isopropyl Alcohol 3.0
Acetone 14 19
2-Butanone (MEK) 2.2 3.3
Benzene
Trichloroethene
Toluene
Ethylbenzene
Xylene (Para & Meta)
4-Ethyltoluene
Xylene (Ortho)
1,2,4-Trimethylbenzene 3.8
Benzene 2.0

Propylene was detected inside the BMW, which was not at a level which would be immediately dangerous to life and health.  Other detectable levels of volatile organic compounds inside the vehicle were low and similar to the outdoor air samples.   These could normally be derived from fumes created by propylene parts or ducting used in air conditioning systems, or nearby wrapping or insulation materials.   The insured used a certain commercial-grade cleaning product on his vehicle to remove whatever contaminant was used to vandalize the vehicle.   Normally, when cleaners are used on an evidence sample, it invalidates or eliminates any real results obtained; this was the most probable finding of this evaluation.

Our conclusions were as follows:

1. No volatile organic chemicals immediately dangerous to life and health were found as a result of the testing and the preliminary environmental analysis that was conducted.

2. There are literally thousands of inorganic, metallic, and naturally occurring chemical compounds, which can be readily purchased.  These can then mix together either intentionally for industrial reasons, accidentally, or randomly in nature, which in a high enough dosage, are dangerous to life and health.   None of these compounds were found in a harmful air quality concentration inside the vehicle in this assessment.

3. More than 2 1/2 months had passed before GEI was brought in to test the possible chemical exposures to the insured.   This time period was certainly sufficient for the majority, if not all, of the volatile chemicals to dissipate, to say nothing of the commercial-grade tear gas cleaner that was used,

4. According to the insured, he filed a police report. However, no report was provided for our review or examination.

 

Related Posts

Tags

Share This