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Marine chemicals and Dermatitis.

Posted: Sun Sep 06, 2015 4:57 pm
by RJH
Marine chemicals and dermatitis.

Hi fellow Marine Engineers.

This is my first post after recently joining this forum but I have often visited it.

In way of an introduction my name is Rob and I spent the first 17 years of my working life as a Fitter and Machinist in various jobbing shops in West Australia.
I have now been a sea going Marine Engineer for the last 30 years, mostly in offshore oil and gas.

I have been suffering from dermatitis for the past 9 months after serving on a vessel that was using a Biocide to control marine growth in sea water systems. In the past I have only ever used Sodium Hypochlorite who’s only ill effect was to make a hand rolled cigarette taste like a swimming pool.

My first outbreak of dermatitis in Oct 2014 was about 2 to 3 days after venting air out of the main sea water strainer during rough voyage. The biocide was being injected via a “T” piece before the vent cock. On this occasion I was splashed on the back of my hand with a concentrated emulsion of Biocide and sea water, which I immediately rinsed with fresh water. This initial case of dermatitis was 95% cured in about 5 days after seeing a physician who subscribed ointments.

A second out break occurred early Jan 2015 about 2 to 3 days after cleaning out a scaled up sea water pipe on the same vessel. While doing this job my hands became covered with loose wet scale. When I saw a Dr. in late Jan I was diagnosed as sever contact dermatitis on the backs of my hands and secondary bacterial infection. This was cured with ointments and antibiotics.

Since then I have developed dark brown itchy scaly patches on my back, arms and legs. I also get small painful blisters on my fingers.

The option of physicians that I have consulted is that the condition I am suffering from is because my immune system has becoming over active from the initial sever case of contact dermatitis. I have been prescribed medication to subdue my immune system but its side effects are not pleasant and possibly dangerous.

I have not mentioned the name of the biocide but it is marketed by large international supplier of marine consumables.

My QUESTION to my fellows on this forum is. Have any of you or do you know anyone who has suffered any simular affliction after exposure to a common sea water biocide used on vessels.

Re: Marine chemicals and Dermatitis.

Posted: Sun Sep 06, 2015 6:24 pm
by JollyJack
You should always read the MSDS (Materiel Safety Data Sheet) before using an unfamiliar compound. It tells you the risks and how to mitigate them. In this case, rubber gloves would be recommended. Marine chemicals can cause all kinds of serious problems, including death. Be aware, know what you are dealing with and take appropriate precautions. It's your RIGHT to know.

Re: Marine chemicals and Dermatitis.

Posted: Mon Sep 07, 2015 12:07 am
by RJH
Jolly Jack I totally agree with your comments and I always use the PPE recommended by the MSDS when directly handling chemicals.

On the first occasion I was doing my ER rounds and I don’t gloves while doing rounds as I am recording pressures, temps levels etc. I also touch pipes to quickly detect any abnormal temperatures.

It was a dumb moment when I vented a sea strainer while Biocide was being injected just below the vent cock.

The second occasion was when I was clearing a scaled up sea water over board pipe.
The pipe was about 38 mm dia and was chocked with scale down to about 6mm dia.

In one of the publications for the biocide the manufacture claims an additional benefit of there product is that it leaves a film inside pipes that helps prevent scale forming and from this, I suspect the scale was contaminated with the biocide.

While clearing this pipe I was using a garden hose to back flush loosened scale out of the pipe. The water and scale got inside my general purpose gloves and I think this is how I came into contact with it the second time.

My question to this forum is.
Has anyone suffered Dermatitis described above while serving on a vessel using biocide as a sea water treatment?

Re: Marine chemicals and Dermatitis.

Posted: Mon Sep 07, 2015 3:23 pm
by JK
We've never used it. I've only seen dermatitis from diesel. Sorry I'm no help. This sounds terrible for you.

Re: Marine chemicals and Dermatitis.

Posted: Mon Sep 07, 2015 8:05 pm
by JollyJack
nope, not me.

Re: Marine chemicals and Dermatitis.

Posted: Wed Sep 09, 2015 7:46 am
by Big Pete
I am sorry to hear about your unfortunate case. I hope the Doctors can find a cure. I will show this to my Engineers as a warning, but that is no help to you.

I have never heard of such a severe reaction, and like some of the previous posters can only suggest waterproof gloves AND Barrier Cream to try to prevent direct contact with the skin, and safety goggles, I can only imagine how much worse it could have been if this stuff got in your eyes.

Doctors are now saying that a lot of our skin problems are caused by overuse of soaps, shampoos, body gels etc, etc which remove all the natural body oils and fats from the skin, leaving it dry like blotting paper and ready to absorb any nasties that land on it, instead of being well sealed with oil and grease.

It does appear that you have had an extreme reaction, other people may appear to get away with exposure to these chemicals on several occasions, but only have a problem later.
As you said there are alternatives, injecting liquid Chlorine and systems that electrolyse Sea Water to form Chlorine, your employers could be regarded as being negligent in wilfully exposing you to Toxic Chemicals when safer alternatives are available. (Although Chlorine is pretty nasty stuff too!)

It sounds like a case for the lawyers to me, you have clearly suffered a serious Industrial Injury due to exposure to Hazardous Chemicals and your employers failed to prevent it. It appears that you have the Medical evidence to support a claim.
If you don't have "Ambulance chasing" Lawyers in your neck of the Woods, try your Union to see if they will back you in claiming compensation.
Failing that, read the small print in all the Insurance Policies you have, to see if they include some form of Legal claims support, it is often a "Giveaway" in Life or House Insurance, sometimes car insurance.

I hope that you recover.

Big Pete.

Re: Marine chemicals and Dermatitis.

Posted: Sat Sep 12, 2015 12:12 am
by Merlyn
Sounds different to the norm, personally I have been very fortunate ref galloping dermo ( as we used to call it over here ) after a lifetime of putting the pinkies in fueloil, hydraulic oils, battery acid and all kinds of stuff I never got any dermo probs and a lot of my era was the pre glove era. However through my own fault a couple of years ago I did get Chorine chemical burns so I can only imagine what you are going through. Not nice at all, I do hope it clears up for you as it must be a worry for you both physically and mentally perhaps.

Re: Marine chemicals and Dermatitis.

Posted: Sun Sep 13, 2015 1:34 am
by Big Pete
Thinking about this a bit more, not only was your employer negligent in using this type of Chemical, but also in the design of the injection system, i.e. it is inherently unsafe to inject the chemical into the air vent cock line, which exposed you to the concentrated chemical, it should have had its own injection point, to design out the danger that you were exposed to. You were of course guilty of contributory negligence in not wearing PPE, but that is the final safety barrier, routine watch keeping should be MADE sufficiently safe for you not to have to wear body armour and full Nuclear Chemical and Biological Warfare kit.

Another question, why were you having to vent air from the SW line, was the main air vent from the Sea Chest to the Deck blocked? Or was there some other problem.

It appears to me that the owners/operators were negligent:-
1) For selecting a system that exposed the crew to a Toxic Chemical when safer alternatives were available.
2)Failing to ensure that the system was installed in a safe manner (rather than into the vent cock line)
3)Failure to maintain the proper air vent line, forcing you to manually vent air.
4)Failing to take remedial action after they learnt of the results of your first exposure.

On another point, most of these systems are designed to maintain sufficient concentrations of chemical in Sea Water to make molluscs let go of the pipe for one hour and then be switched off for 1 or 2 days in order to save Chemicals and the environment, most ships I go on they are running 24/7 but the dosage rate has been reduced in order to reduce chemical consumption, to the point where it is useless.

In order to set the system up correctly, you have to find the pumping rates of the Sea Water pumps on the system and calculate the normal flow rate of the Sea Water through the system per hour.

The chemical maker will tell you the concentration that you have to have in Sea water, from that tons of Sea water pumped per hour, you calculate how much chemical you have to inject in one hour.

You then set up the chemical dosing pump to deliver that quantity of chemical over a period of one hour.

You then set up a timer to operate the pump for one hour a day or every two days.

As RJH says, the chemical is supposed to put a "Non Stick" film on the inside of the pipe to stop shellfish adhering to the pipe, in the first place. I believe the newer formulae are muscle relaxants that cause the baby shellfish to lose their grip and be pumped through the system with the Water flow, rather than poisons to kill them. Pin head shell fish are no problem inside the pipes, it is only when they grow to a large size that they become a problem, so shifting them all every couple of days is perfectly adequate, to prevent a reduction in coolant flow.

I hope people are now looking at the systems on their ships to see if they are as safe as practical and being operated correctly.

Safe Sailing everyone.


Re: Marine chemicals and Dermatitis.

Posted: Mon Sep 14, 2015 4:25 am
by D Winsor
I agree with BP that the crew shouldn't have to vent the sea bay through the strainer vent and that the strainer vent shouldn't be used as an access point to inject chemicals into the system.
If the ship is having problem with venting it is possible that the creatures the chemicals are trying to control have collected are blocking the vent lines. Many of the Great Lakes ships have had a major problems venting the sea bays because Zebra Mussels liked to grow in the sea bay vent lines. The solution to control the Zebra Mussels turned out to be a simple one, regular injection of a strong brine or chlorine solution into the vent lines. The solution killed the mussels and broke the mussels adhesion to the pipes, then through the normal changing water level in the pipes the mussel shells would flush back down and settle into the sea bay or sea tank, or were burped out through the vent onto the deck. In order to prevent the dead mussels collected in the sea bay and sea tank from blocking water suction lines the sea bays and sea tank would be cleaned out when the vessel was drydocked or during a lay-up period.
Rather than inject the control chemical into the sea bay the owners should look at injecting the chemical into the vent lines just above the ballast draft line allowing the chemical to safely penetrate into the system when the ship is loaded and possibly clear the vents at the same time.

Re: Marine chemicals and Dermatitis.

Posted: Tue Sep 15, 2015 2:27 am
by Merlyn
Talking of evil chemicals I am using a product in Malaga, Spain on valve chests and strum boxes which is freely available over the counter in all supermarkets. It's called Aqua Fuerte and is in one litre squirt plastic bottles. I can write my initials back to bare metal underwater, yes underwater in scale deposits about three sixteenth thick . As a matter of interest I tried it on a concrete block ashore and it fizzes and reacts eating the block away. Banned in UK but available no probs in Spain. Evil stuff or what. Def. not for cleaning the teeth in methinks.

Re: Marine chemicals and Dermatitis.

Posted: Tue Sep 15, 2015 2:47 am
by JK
remember the days when you dumped 50-50 Seaclean and diesel in the seabays, when on the dock, to clear the circ lines of growth when you flashed the plant? You'd be in jail these days. I'm half afraid to find out what seaclean actually consisted of, I'd have retroactive dermititis

Re: Marine chemicals and Dermatitis.

Posted: Tue Sep 15, 2015 11:34 pm
by Big Pete
I remember sailing on a General cargo ship called the Floristan, built in the mid 60's, she was built with a dosing system which discharged Biocides dissolved in Kerosene to prevent fouling. When I sailed on her in 1975 this had been disconnected.

Re: Marine chemicals and Dermatitis.

Posted: Thu Oct 01, 2015 8:33 pm
by The Dieselduck
Hello RJH, welcome and glad to have you post. Like most of the discussion, I haven't had much negative impact from ER operations on my skin. A few issues he and there but nothing of the terrible sort your going through. I pretty much use disposable gloves on most operations these days, if I can help it, otherwise the oils dry up my finger and become painful because I end up picking at them. Also Fast orange hand cleaner I also found was pretty harsh, but they seem to have changed formula, or my chemistry has changed because it seems better now.

Anyways, sorry i'm no help. Hope you find some information.