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Va. Dept. of Fire Programs cautions against mishandling dry ice used to ship, store COVID-19 vaccines

Dry ice.
Dry ice.(WVLT News)
Published: Dec. 30, 2020 at 4:12 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WHSV) — The Virginia Department of Fire Programs is cautioning first responders and health care professionals throughout Virginia about the dangers of improper storage and disposal of dry ice, which is being used to transport COVID-19 vaccines.

According to a press release from the Virginia Department of Fire Programs (VDFP), dry ice is a solid form of carbon dioxide and weighs just about twice as much as regular ice. Dry ice goes from a solid to a gas as it warms, releasing carbon dioxide.

Primary health hazards occur when dry ice returns to its gaseous carbon dioxide state at -78 degrees Celsius, the International Association of Fire Chiefs says. The gas then expands quickly and displaces oxygen inside enclosed spaces, such as transport compartments and walk-in coolers.

Additionally, the press release says if carbon dioxide is released while in transport or in storage, hazards can include an increased potential for an explosion due to pressure building, unconsciousness due to displaced oxygen and frostbite or burns if contact occurs with bare skin.

“We’re noticing a number of groups who are coming into contact with dry ice with the mass distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, who may not be aware of the risks that dry ice may impose,” says VDFP Executive Director Michael Reilly in the release. “For example, dry ice at room temperature, could ‘off-gas’ a high level of CO2 in a confined space. This is a hazard. First responders who are trained in hazardous materials response are aware of the proper handling, storage, and disposal of dry ice.”

The VDFP urges professionals and the public alike to always use caution when interacting with dry ice. Be sure to protect your skin, and store the dry ice in a well-ventilated area.

For more information on dry ice safety and to read the full press release from the VDFP, click here.

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