Carbon Fiber Hazards
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Home > Articles & Tips Index > Construction > Carbon Fiber Hazards

[Courtesy of Mike Youngling, YOUNGLINGM "at" aol.com, May 1999 - originally posted on RCJets mailing list]

I just returned from a USAF mishap investigation course at Kirtland AFB, New Mexico. One of the subjects covered is the hazards associated with carbon fiber composites in a post-crash fire. This is a big issue since many modern combat aircraft contain increasing amounts of this material. What I learned is the material itself is not hazardous until it is subjected to a fire after a crash.

The carbon can cause serious skin and respiratory problems. Since carbon chemically bonds with just about any compound, the hazard lies in the toxic compounds the material picks up during combustion. Acids, cyanides and other nasty compounds bond with the fibers which are carried by the smoke and flames into the air.

This posses a serious threat to anyone fighting the fire or handling the wreckage afterwards. The fibers will puncture the skin and release the compounds into the bloodstream. This is compounded by the fact the body does not recognize carbon as a foreign body and will not attempt to shed it.

Not to scare anyone but if you fight a model fire involving carbon fiber structures use a mask or at least a scarf over the nose and exercise extreme caution when handling wreckage. The best solution is to spray a fixing agent such as white glue and water or wax on the parts to prevent release of the fibers. Handle parts with gloves. Thankfully, we're not using Boron, this stuff can penetrate into bone...

Welcome to the space age,

Mike


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