The 135,000 race fans attending this Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 will be the largest crowd at a U.S. sporting event since the COVID-19 pandemic started last March. Even though that’s just 40% of the capacity of the mammoth Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it’ll be exciting to see so many people in the same place celebrating the same thing.
Most of those fans will be rooting for their favorite drivers and teams, and marveling at the state-of-the-art technology packed into every 1,600-pound car. The Dangerous Goods pros in the crowd will do that, too—but they’ll also be obsessing as only Dangerous Goods pros can.
They’ll be saying Normal people have no idea how much hazmat there is here!
Here’s a semi-serious look at the regulated hazardous materials likely to be present at Sunday’s race, ranked from most obvious to least obvious.
- Racing fuel. Indy cars run on Speedway E85—85 percent ethanol (UN 1170) and 15 percent gasoline (UN 1203), both Class 3 Flammable Liquids. (Like we said, some of this stuff is obvious.) With Indy cars getting less than two miles per gallon, each car that completes the race will burn about 260 gallons of the stuff.
- Propane and charcoal. Tailgating is an Indy 500 tradition—heck, some fans camp out all week—and most of those grilles burn UN 1978 propane. The old school grille masters, however, will be firing up Class 4 Flammable Solids in the form of charcoal briquettes (UN 3088).
- Fire extinguishers. Every one of the 33 pit crews will have several fire extinguishers handy. The ones that contain chemical fire suppressants are Class 2 Gases, UN 1044. But ethanol fires can be mitigated with water, and those big water-filled extinguishers aren’t Dangerous Goods at all.
- Alcohol. Not the stuff in the cars—the stuff in the fans. Alcoholic beverages with more than 24 percent alcohol by volume are Class 3 Flammable Liquids, UN 3065. Beer and wine, however, are not regulated hazmat—just the hard stuff.
- Shock absorbers. Just like your family SUV, Indy cars use shock absorbers (UN3164), which are Class 2 Gases classified as “Articles, pressurized pneumatic or hydraulic containing non-flammable gas.” (Your family SUV also has airbags—UN 3268, Class 9 Miscellaneous Dangerous Goods—but Indy cars don’t.)
- Dry ice. Those race fans who stay multiple days might bring their food packed in dry ice, UN 1845. Dry ice got a lot more attention than usual the last few months as a key component for the shipment of COVID-19 vaccines, the massive distribution of which played a large role in the Indy 500 being able to host 135,000 fans.
- Mosquito repellent. If it contains N, N-diethylaniline, it’s a Class 6 Poison, UN 2432.
- First aid kits. Every racing team and most of the well-stocked RVs will have a first aid kit, and while most of the stuff in them is unregulated, they can contain certain chemicals and therefore qualify as Class 9 Miscellaneous Dangerous Goods, UN 3316.
- Lithium batteries. There should be approximately 10 gajillion lithium battery devices at Sunday’s race, and everyone knows lithium batteries are hazmat, right? You’d be surprised. The boom in e-commerce has created lots of new companies who don’t know their lithium battery devices are Dangerous Goods, have never considered how to manage returns compliantly, and have no inkling that damaged, defective and recalled devices require special packaging.
So, while normal people watching the Indianapolis 500 will just see 33 cars going around an oval track 200 times, the Dangerous Goods pros in the crowd will see 33 cars going around an oval track 200 times surrounded by regulated materials in at least five hazmat classes.
Life’s just more interesting when you’re a DG pro. Here’s to a safe and exciting race!
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