Amazon hit with proposed $350K fine for shipping hazardous package that hurt nine UPS workers

The Federal Aviation Administration’s penalty requested today is the largest the agency has sought against Amazon, which it says has had a series of at least 24 hazardous materials violations in recent years.

Amazing Fire drain cleanerThe FAA claims the retailer sent a UPS package on Oct. 15, 2014, with a one-gallon container of “Amazing! LIQUID FIRE,” a corrosive drain cleaner for transportation by air from Louisville to Boulder, Colo., according to an agency press release. The cleaner contains sulfuric acid, which can cause serious burns, including permanent blindness on contact.

The package leaked and nine UPS employees who came into contact with the cardboard box were treated after feeling a burning sensation, the FAA said. The agency didn’t say where the UPS employees worked, and it didn’t say how the drain cleaner arrived in Louisville. UPS has 22,000 employees in Louisville, making it the area’s single-biggest private employer.

Amazon declined to answer questions about the incident, according to Reuters, and UPS said the workers were fine after treatment.

The FAA said the shipment was improperly packaged, not accompanied by a declaration for dangerous goods, and not properly labeled to indicate the hazardous contents, according to an agency press release.

Boulevard found an identically described product sold by N.J. Wholesale Supply for $102 for a case of 12 32-oz. bottles. The company says in red, capital letters that it can only be shipped by freight. It contains sulfuric acid, according to the site. We also found it on Amazon’s website, but the product description doesn’t mention sulfuric acid. It advises buyers to “read the label for warnings and directions before using.”

In high concentrations, sulfuric acid can cause very serious damage upon contact, including chemical burns, permanent blindness if splashed onto eyes and irreversible damage if swallowed, according to Wikipedia, which cites chemical maker BASF.

The FAA didn’t detail any of the other 24 hazardous materials violations it said Amazon had committed. Amazon has 30 days from receipt of the FAA’s enforcement letter to respond to the agency.

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