New Fine Woodworking magazin almost made me ill

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I have smoke detector in the basement away from the shop and a heat detector over my DC. Also monitored. There isn't much else to catch fire in there. Heat detector in garage and smoke detector upstairs too.
John
Doug Miller wrote:

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Avoid the whole water damage thing and install 'one uh them thar' fancy halon systems. Probably not a DIY, nor ~$100, but if this is a big risk... Seems plausable for a basement shop, esp. with volatile finishing stuff.
Chris
--
Chris Richmond | I don't speak for Intel & vise versa

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I don't think you can buy halon systems anymore...not to mention I wouldn't want to be around when it went off.
Rob
http://www.amateurtermite.com
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Was in a computer room many years ago when the halon system went off. We all knew what it could do and the result was blood and hair on the door jamb!

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system in the computer room; the standard warning was if you hear the fire alarm go off, you have 30 seconds to get out of the room before the atmosphere is no longer breathable. I'll accept the (hopefully small) risk of my tools getting wet.
-- Regards, Doug Miller (alphageek-at-milmac-dot-com)
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Just for the record, there ware *TWO* kinds of HALON systems used for computer rooms. _One_ of them *would* maintain a 'breathable' atmosphere for humans, while suppressing a fire. The other one was 'quite' hazardous to humans.
Note: I've had the 'dubious honor' of working at sites that have had dumps of _both_ kinds of systems. There is *no* warning/delay with the 'breathable' system -- when somebody hits the panic button the dump valves open *right*now*.
Either variety is fairly _expensive_ to use. The 'breathable' stuff, more so.
Unfortunately, you cannot buy/install a _new_ HALON system these days. and they're not making HALON any more. If you have an existing system, and can find 'old stock' from somebody, you can use that to recharge and/or top-off an existing system.
The -bad- news is that nobody's come up with a "good" replacement for HALON yet. Unlike the similarly banned 'FREON' refrigerant.
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snipped-for-privacy@host122.r-bonomi.com (Robert Bonomi) wrote:

Perhaps you can explain further, as I don't see how this is possible. To be breathable for humans, air must have somewhere around 15% oxygen minimum, I believe, and that's more than enough to support a fire.

And thus, absolutely not suited to use in a small woodshop -- if one could even get it, which as you note, one can't.
-- Regards, Doug Miller (alphageek-at-milmac-dot-com)
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HALON is *strange* stuff. 'Traditional' fire-extinguisher techniques revolve around removing one of the three components needed to sustain combustion: the fuel, the oxidizer, and 'heat'. e.g. CO2 extinguishers work by driving away the oxygen; a fire hose (water) works by absorbing the heat, etc.
HALON works _differently_ -- it 'interferes with' the combustion process. Sort-of like a catalyst that _slows_down_ a chemical reaction. A concentration of a few percentage points in the 'atmosphere' is sufficient to inhibit combustion.
This 'different' functionality is a significant part of why HALON is referred to as a 'fire *suppression*' system, rather than a 'fire extinguisher'.
At fire-suppression concentrations, HALON 1301 (gas) _is_ safe to breathe. HALON 1211 (liquid) is also 'breathable', *but* is generally "pushed out" by high pressure Nitrogen -- which adds a possible 'oxygen starvation' component to the situation. A few systems use HALON 1211 to push out the HALON 1301. There are other forms of HALON that also suppress combustion, but are moderately poisonous to animals, including humans, in the required concentrations. The health hazard is/was tolerated because of the other characteristics -- it 'suppresses' combustion *quickly*. it dissipates rapidly, and it doesn't leave any "mess" behind. In 'high value' installations that last characteristic is *important* -- it means you can get the site back in operation (at least the parts that didn't actually catch fire) almost immediately.
HALON's fire-suppression capabilities were discovered 'by accident' -- it was years later that the 'mechanism' of _how_ it "did it's thing" was figured out.
One last thing, like the old Mad Magazine sticker about 'waste water', the breathable HALON "tastes terrible". I *know*. <wry grin>

When manufacture was banned, effective 1994, the price of existing stockpiles _skyrocketed_.
Unfortunately, there is _nothing_ that is as effective, available to replace it. And nothing that is a 'drop-in' substitute; unlike the situation with the similarly-banned FREON refrigerants.
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Thanks, Robert -- good explanation. I never knew any of that before.
snipped-for-privacy@host122.r-bonomi.com (Robert Bonomi) wrote:

-- Regards, Doug Miller (alphageek-at-milmac-dot-com)
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Robert Bonomi wrote:

IIRC nitrogen is a very dangerous gas for us humanoids. If you walk into a room with a high enough concentration of nitrogen and stay there a few breaths, the next thing you'll know (or won't know depending on whose religion is right) is you're dead. There's no shortness of breath, no choking, just your eyes going dark. The early warning sign is death.
IIRC extremely dangerous.
-- Mark
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You do *not* recall correctly.
Nitrogen is absolutely non-toxic to all forms of terrestrial animal life, humans included -- it comprises approximately 79% of the air on this planet.
That said, an atmosphere of pure nitrogen is not breathable by humans, but that's solely because of a lack of oxygen, and not due in any way to the presence of nitrogen.
-- Regards, Doug Miller (alphageek-at-milmac-dot-com)
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Doug Miller wrote:

From http://www.wordiq.com/definition/Space_disasters
<quote> On March 19, 1981 during preparations for STS-1, at the end of the 33 hour long Shuttle Dry Countdown Demonstration Test, Columbia's aft engine compartment was under a nitrogen purge to prevent the buildup of oxygen and hydrogen gases from the propulsion system. Six technicians entered the aft engine compartment and five of the six lost consciousness due to the lack of oxygen in the compartment. Two died. John Gerald Bjornstad, a 50 year old Rockwell employee, was pronounced dead at the scene and Forrest Cole was brought to the hospital where he later died. The other four workmen were treated and released. </quote>
As I recall the press at the time (and I could be wrong) the danger of walking into a nitrogen atmosphere is that your body gives you *no* *clues* that it is not getting enough oxygen. There is no shortness of breath, no choking. There are zero warning signs. You breathe normally until you suddenly collapse.
Actually in this case there was an early warning sign (IIRC) for some of the people. The four who survived the accident freaked out and fled when the first one in, the guy who died on the site, collapsed.
That is my recollection of the press from 1981. I'm open to more/better information.
-- Mark
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More... http://www.opinionjournal.com/best/?id 0003017
<quote> To prevent an accidental fire or explosion sealed compartments on the shuttle and ground equipment are purged with pure nitrogen. Nitrogen isn't poisonous but without oxygen a fire can't happen--however people can't breathe either.
Through a chain of miscommunications several technicians entered the shuttle's aft compartment on March 19, shortly after the shuttle's dress rehearsal was completed. They fell unconscious in the nitrogen-filled aft compartment. Other techs were able to pull their bodies out and fire and rescue personnel gave the victims CPR and oxygen. John Bjornstad died the day of the accident. Technician Forrest Cole lingered on, dying on April 1st. Four others were either hospitalized or treated and released. Some had respiratory problems for the rest of their lives.
The accident review board noted that a series of events led to confusion, a do not enter sign was removed when it should have been replaced with another sign with a warning. A supervisor was called away to another location. One tech who put on an emergency breathing mask and tried to see if anybody was still inside the shuttle couldn't tell because his mask fogged over. The accident led to more stringent safety rules and procedures. During the STS-1 mission astronauts John Young and Bob Crippen recognized Bjornstad and Cole for their sacrifice to the shuttle program. </quote>
I notice some of the details in this quote are different from what I recall being published in the Rapid City (South Dakota, USA) Journal in 1981.
I'm still googling for proof your body doesn't know when it is breating pure nitrogen.
-- Mark
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Mark Jerde wrote:

I found this on the internet, it has to be true... <g>
From http://yarchive.net/space/science/man_in_vacuum.html
<quote> The best Earthly comparison is what happens to people who walk into a room containing a pure-nitrogen atmosphere. The analogy is fairly good; to a first approximation, when there's no oxygen present, it doesn't matter whether something else is there or not. Such accidents happen occasionally in industry. (In fact, one happened at the Ariane 5 launch site a few months back.) Sudden loss of consciousness occurs within 10-15s, and death follows quickly. Stringent precautions have to be taken to prevent such accidents, because survival is rare -- you get no warning that you're about to keel over, and rescuers must understand the situation immediately and act very quickly.
Also, Clarke got one detail completely wrong: hyperventilating first will not help. The bloodstream of a resting person is already saturated with oxygen; there is no way to pump more in. What hyperventilation does is to flush CO2 out of your body. This matters because the breathing reflex is triggered by CO2 buildup, not oxygen shortage. (That's why you get no warning of impending unconsciousness in a pure-nitrogen atmosphere.) Hyperventilation suppresses the breathing reflex so you can fully exploit the air in your lungs. This doesn't help in vacuum.
(I suppose I should also observe here that deliberate hyperventilation to help you hold your breath -- in situations like diving -- is dangerous, for an analogous reason: it's possible to suppress your breathing reflex so thoroughly that you run out of oxygen before you feel any need to breathe, and the result is sudden unconsciousness.) </quote>
Pulling out quotes.
"Sudden loss of consciousness occurs within 10-15s, and death follows quickly. Stringent precautions have to be taken to prevent such accidents, because survival is rare -- you get no warning that you're about to keel over, and rescuers must understand the situation immediately and act very quickly."
"This matters because the breathing reflex is triggered by CO2 buildup, not oxygen shortage. (That's why you get no warning of impending unconsciousness in a pure-nitrogen atmosphere.)"
"it's possible to suppress your breathing reflex so thoroughly that you run out of oxygen before you feel any need to breathe, and the result is sudden unconsciousness."
I'm quitting googling and going back to work. I'm still open for more/better information on the danger of a pure nitrogen atmosphere and its effect on us humanoids.
-- Mark
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Mark Jerde wrote: <snip>

A google search for "nitrogen asphyxiation" turns up a lot of hits. This looks like a good one:
http://www.csb.gov/index.cfm?folder=news_releases&page=news&NEWS_ID 
Partial quote:
"While nitrogen makes up the majority of the air we breathe and is not toxic, people shouldn't assume it's benign," according to CSB Chairman Carolyn W. Merritt. "Nitrogen does not support life, and when nitrogen displaces the oxygen we breathe, it can prove very deadly. Since nitrogen is odorless and colorless, our senses provide no protection against nitrogen-enriched atmospheres. Good safety management practices are essential if we are to reduce the annual toll of nitrogen-related deaths and injuries."
R, Tom Q.
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I would have thought you would get shortness of breath. But I understand hypoxia due to altitude works much as you describe. People's judgment and mental capacity decreases, but they do not recognize it.
Here are two posts from a thread that appeared on rec.aviation.piloting a few years ago when a golfer's jet decompressed an flew until fuel exhaustion. The question was why the pilots couldn't recognize it and get down. These posts tell of people's experience in a hypobaric chamber, which shows their rapid incapacitation. http://groups.google.com/groups?selm816eda4%240%2490324%40news.net-link.net&output=gplain and http://groups.google.com/groups?q=g:thl3691800605d&dq=&hl=en&lr=&selm818FB10.4C291D24%40bellsouth.net
Another post in the thread tells of similar disorientation occurring much more slowly (~15min) when altitude was raised to only 18,000 feet.
So, back to your original post, nitrogen itself is certainly not poisonous, or even harmful, but if it displaces oxygen, the resulting hypoxia kills quickly and without much warning, as you described.
--
Alex -- Replace "nospam" with "mail" to reply by email. Checked infrequently.

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alexy wrote:

A friend of mine climbed Mt. McKinley in Alaska in 1978. I wanted to go but couldn't get all the $$ together. His description of insuffient oxygen was interesting: "It's not like being high, it's like being stupid." All the members of the expedition had an altitude at which they "became stupid." My friend Jon made it higher than most but he was "out of it" near the peak and has few memories of the last part of the climb. He has photos, and these are the basis of his "reconstructed recollections" of the last part of the climb. ;-)
By his description as they walked back down the mountain people "snapped out" of their IQ-65 mode back to normal at the same altiudes they lost it on the way up.
-- Mark
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On Thu, 18 Nov 2004 20:11:56 GMT, "Mark Jerde"

I dunno. Anyone who'd climb a frosty peak must have started in the IQ-65 mode at the bottom. And since they didn't have oxygen, they all -missed- the actual experience they meant to achieve by being in that dumb mode. How much bette would the trip have been if they had carried oxy? Ditto the pictures when NOT taken by a braindead guy?
Climbers' IQs just dropped in my estimation.
--
Strong like ox, smart like tractor.
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On Thu, 18 Nov 2004 20:11:56 GMT, "Mark Jerde"

Just for one of those "for what it's worth" points, during the First World War the working ceiling for airplanes was between 20,000 and 25,000 feet. Those guys would fly up there, patrol for between 1 and 4 hours then descend, all in an open-cockpit plane w/o oxygen. Many reported that their entire body would tingle for hours after a flight. Of course the fact that the outside temperature was usually at least -30f and maybe as cold as -50f had something to do with that. Still, it is amazing to me that they not only could fly that high without oxygen, but could function and fight under those conditions.
Tim Douglass
http://www.DouglassClan.com
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"due to lack of oxygen".
Isn't that what I said?

I don't know if that's correct or not, but, like I said, nitrogen is *not* poisonous. Air is 78% +/- nitrogen.
-- Regards, Doug Miller (alphageek-at-milmac-dot-com)
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