What inside shipping containers is making workers sick?

They found formaldehyde in 81 percent of the containers and ethylene oxide in 4 or 7 percent, to name a few of the chemicals. Exposure to ethylene oxide can cause several unpleasant symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Phosphine is used especially in the transport of cereals in containers, as well as in the transport of bulk carriers by train or ship. Tablets containing aluminum phosphide or magnesium are combined in small receptacles or in long pouches.

The phosphide reacts with moisture in the air in the container to produce phosphine. Most of the containers contain silica gel to dry them and prevent excessive formation of phosphine during transport. Therefore, a crucial moment is the opening of the container. The remaining phosphide begins to form phosphine when moisture enters the container from the outside.

The same reaction occurs with loads in the holds of ships when there are traces of phosphide. Especially this moment leads to acute poisoning. After this acute moment, continuous exposure may occur due to the absorption of phosphine into the person's clothing. Secondhand containers may be coated with chemicals that are toxic to humans in certain quantities.

These coatings are used to protect the container from extreme elements, such as years of direct exposure to the sun and salt water while in transit through the ocean. It's vital for containers when they're used to transport cargo, but it's obviously not very good when you use containers to build homes. The first step in taking preventive measures is based on identifying containers with dangerous contents. In most cases, containers arriving from developing countries with food, footwear, furniture and other wood products were considered to contain chemical hazards.

A similar and systematic bibliographic study was carried out on the contamination of containers for fumigation on bulk cargo ships. Container ships, which carry more than 70% of all international cargo, account for the majority of cargo. In addition, the contents can become physically unstable after container transport, the HSE also warned. Most importantly, grants obtain credentials that accredit fumigation activity and issue official certificates for fumigated containers, which are highly recognized by foreign consignees.

Contemporary transcontinental transportation of consumer goods largely uses tropical softwood to manufacture disposable or short-lived boxes and pallets (wooden packaging materials). It was loaded with rice, but inside the container there was also a strange blue bag full of white powder. In addition, fumigants may be present in the ship's compartments without being recognized until the exposure is fatal. The case study also shows that, since European countries improved inspection standards for levels of methyl bromide in imported containers, fumigation with toxic chemicals has been gradually replaced by heat treatment in this state-owned company.

In the photos you can see wooden houses that have been completely destroyed by the wind; however, above the wood there are completely intact transport containers. We also receive emails from people who want to build a container cabin for use in nature and want to know if it's safe for people to enter it. The scientific literature barely reports on both incidents involving fumigated containers and bulk cargo ships. They came to the conclusion that, unfortunately, the current container design makes it technically difficult to safely and quickly sample and vent before opening doors.

Lynette Cariño
Lynette Cariño

Total tv fanatic. Extreme explorer. General travel evangelist. Incurable student. Freelance music nerd. Typical beer lover.