Spill a 'wake-up call' on laws

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 December, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 05 December, 1997, 12:00am

The range of chemicals that need a licence to be carried on the roads should be widened, a provisional legislator said last night.

Environment panel member Dr Raymond Ho Chung-tai said yesterday's sodium cyanide spill was a wake-up call for the Government.

He also demanded stronger penalties for lorry drivers who failed to secure their loads.

Although sodium cyanide is highly toxic, no licence is required for it to be carried on roads.

Only the transportation of compressed gases and substances giving off inflammable vapours needs a licence from the Director of Fire Services.

Under the Dangerous Goods Ordinance, sodium cyanide is a Category Four chemical. 'The only requirement is that it is properly labelled and packaged,' a fire services spokesman said.

Dr Ho said: 'This accident sends a very strong warning indeed.

'It is time to have a fresh look at the licensing arrangements and take stronger action to make sure that loads are properly tied down, not just on trucks carrying dangerous goods, but all heavily stacked loads.' Hong Kong University chemistry lecturer Dr Andreas Mayr said somebody touching sodium cyanide crystals was unlikely to be at risk of sickness or death.

The chemical in its dry form was not volatile and did not have a lingering effect on the environment.

'But it is soluble in water and extremely poisonous in high concentration. It can only vaporise [and be inhaled] if it comes into contact with acid to become cyanic-hydro acid, which is volatile and reacts in the same way as cyanide if inhaled,' he said.