DuPont Phosgene Death

Carl Daniel Fish
Carl Daniel Fish

Carl “Dan” Fish, a worker at the DuPont plant in Belle West Virginia, died this past Sunday due to phosgene exposure. Only scant details about the incident have been released by DuPont thus far, but this is what we have been told.

On Saturday afternoon a site employee was exposed to Phosgene from a leaking transfer hose. The hose was not in service when the leak occurred but did contain a small amount residual Phosgene from an earlier use. The employee was transported to the hospital by the Kanawha County Ambulance Authority for treatment and observation as part of the standard protocol for exposure to this material.

Unlike previous chemistry related deaths this has gotten the attention of Washington. Senator Rockefeller (D-WV) released a statement Monday, Rockefeller Statement on Incidents at DuPont Chemical Plant, calling for a thorough investigation of the incident. Since Rockefeller is the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, the committee with oversight of the facility, and being a senator from West Virginia Dupont can look forward to being under intense scrutiny.

Update 1: The senior senator from West Virginia, Robert Byrd (D-WV), has released his own statement: Byrd statement on incident at DuPont chemical plant

Update 2: It took DuPont 20 minutes to identify the chemical exposure to Metro 911 services after the initial call for an ambulance: DuPont calls: ‘Can you give me some more information?’
Audio Files: 1st Call from Dupont Advising Medical Emergency, Cpt Wallace Contacting Dupont for more info (The Charleston Gazette)

Update 3: The U.S. Chemical Safety Board voted to investigate the incident that caused a braided steel hose connected to a one-ton capacity phosgene tank to suddenly rupture. The lead investigator will be Johnnie Banks and the CSB team will arrive Tuesday at DuPont: Board Votes to Initiate Investigation on Accidents at DuPont Chemical Facility in Belle, West Virginia (CSB)

Update 4: Obituary

Update 5: From an anonymous source that I can not verify.

From what I’m told, he and another employee were walking by the tube when he heard it getting ready to bust and he shoved the other employee out of the way and he took the full brunt of it to the face and chest himself. I’m surprised they don’t mention those heroics in their statements. BTW, he was in his 50’s. He worked at that plant for 32 yrs.

Update 6: Senator Rockefeller called for a full CSB investigation into DuPont’s safety infrastructure and the facility’s compliance with emergency notification requirements to Metro 911 and federal agencies. In addition he asked for $1.6 million to create a new CSB team to alleviate the current workload and allow a concentrated effort for CSB to examine DuPont: Chemical Safety Board Must Have Resources To Review and Investigate All Current Cases Simultaneously (Press Release, Jan 27th 2010)

Update 7: “[During a briefing at a Charleston hotel] CSB lead investigator Johnnie Banks said the hose that sprayed phosgene onto Fish showed signs of “fraying” and “wear.” …another Kanawha Valley chemical company that uses phosgene, Bayer CropScience, utilizes only solid steel piping for transfers of the chemical. Banks described the hose as an 18-inch-long quarter-inch hose, with woven stainless steel on the outside and Teflon inside. It was damaged badly enough that investigators could see its Teflon lining through a small hole”. From: CSB: DuPont phosgene hose showed signs of ‘fraying’ (The Charleston Gazette, Jan 28th 2010)

Mitch (Our best thoughts from everyone at Chemistry Blog goes to his family and friends at this time)


  1. The release from DuPont and Update #5 don’t seem to match. I worked for years at a facility that used phosgene and know that it takes a pretty good dose of it to kill you (unless you already have a lung disease). Since phosgene is not absorbed through the skin, and if you are not incapacited, you can hold your breath when you smell it and exit the area with no lasting side effects, provided the amount is indeed small. I have done it myself. The DuPont release sounds a bit fishy to me.

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  3. Really? This is phosgene they are talking about. The man should have been in a bodysuit, breathing canned air. Also, the connections should have been hard-piped.

  4. @Thoughts: Agreed, a phosgene line should have been hard-piped.

  5. You don’t hard pipe moveable 1-ton capacity phosgene tank. Flex hoses are the norm. Just do a search for phosgene flex hose and you will see a number of companies supply them. A full tank will weigh in excess of 3700 lbs.

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