Satellite Reentry

Feb 22, 2008
Potential Health Effects Associated with Hydrazine and
Satellite Reentry

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is
collaborating with federal partners to address potential
health and safety threats associated with the reentry of an
uncontrolled U.S. government satellite into the earth’s
atmosphere within the next few weeks. Because the
satellite’s fuel contains the toxic chemical hydrazine, it
is possible that the reentry of the satellite could pose a
public health threat if pieces of it fall into populated
areas. The risk of health effects related to the satellite
is considered to be low. However, CDC is encouraging health
officials and clinicians to review information about the
health effects related to hydrazine to prepare in case
their communities are affected by satellite debris.

Hydrazine is a clear, colorless liquid with an ammonia-like
odor. Hydrazine is highly reactive and easily catches fire.
It can easily evaporate to the air and can dissolve in
water. In soil, hydrazine may stick to particles. In each
of these forms hydrazine breaks down quickly into less
harmful compounds.

People can be exposed to hydrazine by breathing
contaminated air, dermal contact, or ingestion. Breathing
hydrazine may cause coughing and irritation of the throat
and lungs, convulsions, tremors, or seizures. Dermal
contact may cause redness, pain, and burns. Eating or
drinking small amounts of hydrazine may cause nausea,
vomiting, uncontrolled shaking, inflammation of the nerves,
drowsiness, or coma.

Additional information about hydrazine can be found at
http://emergency.cdc.gov/agent/hydrazine/, including the
following topics:

Frequently asked questions about hydrazine
(http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/tfacts100.html)

Toxicologic & adverse health effect information about
hydrazine (http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiles/tp100.html)

NIOSH Pocket Safety guide to chemical hazards on hydrazine
(http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/npg/npgd0329.html)

Chemical Emergencies Overview (
http://emergency.cdc.gov/chemical/overview.asp)

Emergency preparedness
(http://emergency.cdc.gov/preparedness/)

Because we do not know yet where the satellite or satellite
debris will land or the scope of any health risks
associated with the satellite’s reentry, CDC will be
updating its website and providing the public health work
force, clinicians, and the general public with more
information as it becomes available.

You may also call CDC toll free at 1-800-CDC-INFO
(1-800-232-4636) for more information.