Oct. 4th, 2011

katsmeat: (Default)
The snowboard lesson I took on Monday went well. Though without the slightly surreal note of last week's one – an airship circling overhead. That made it an effort to keep my attention on the lesson as I really really like airships.

Today, I was doing a few errands and popped into an antique/bric-a-brac shop I'd passed before, but never gone into. In such places, I have the tiresome tendency to emit excited squeals, pick up some peculiar looking metal object and triumphantly exclaim "I know what this is!" Such was the case with a brass bottle, about a foot long, with a pump handle on one end and a nozzle in the other. This was a Pyrene, Carbon Tetrachloride fire extinguisher; these were once widely used but have been obsolete since the 40's. Search eBay for "Pyrene" and you'll find lots - they're not rare.

Now CCl4 had many uses, but is especially good at putting out fires. Although a problem is that heat converts it into phosgene (See Chemical Warfare in World War One), so it's best if the person pumping the extinguisher holds their breath. Even without heat, it's an especially nasty hepatotoxin, it's a neurotoxin and toxic to the kidneys; it's almost certainly a carcinogen. It's volatile so if any is spilled anywhere near you, you'll be breathing it (the downsides of having a pump thing, that sprays about a litre into the air as a fine mist, can be seen) and it can be absorbed through the skin. It has been universally banned for many decades so the eBay listings tend to emphasise the point that the antique extinguishers they're selling are *** empty ***.

You likely guessed where this was going - the one I picked up was heavy and had fluid sloshing about inside. You likely also guessed that "Fuckety! fuckety! FUCK FUCK FUCK!" were my thoughts as I (very carefully) put it down again.

"You know those tetrachloride fire extinguishers are full of quite nasty stuff" were my first words to the man behind the counter. He said nothing; I don't think he liked me, in fact I would call his expression baleful. So I left the shop ASAP. I wanted to ask the price of a stereoscopic range-finder*, which I suddenly decided my life would be incomplete without. But I lacked the courage given the way he looked at me. Though I have a vague feeling if I call Environmental Health about this one, it'll possibly provoke a response that involves a specialist fire-crew and haz-mat suits, I don't know.

* Covered in German text and is absolutely identical to the one held by the bloke in the foreground of this picture. So it's provenance is fairly certain


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