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Explosion Means Shortage Of Canned Whipped Cream
Deadly explosion at nitrous oxide factory means whipped cream shortage during festive season (CCSS Level: Grade 8, Words: 402)
Dec 27, 2016 Science & Technology

In August, a gas tanker exploded in a town called Cantonment in Florida. Right now it is the festive season in North America, a time when pies are often covered in delicious whipped cream. However this winter there is a shortage of the popular cans that automatically release the whipped delicacy. And believe it or not, the shortage is directly related to that explosion four months ago. The reason is because the main ingredient in a can of Reddi-wip is not the cream, the sugar or the flavouring, but a gas called nitrous oxide. The explosion in August was at a major nitrous oxide facility operated by a company called Airgas.

Now normally nitrous oxide is pretty safe stuff. After all, it is sitting quietly in cans inside refrigerators all over the world. But that is not its only use. Nitrous oxide is also used by dentists and doctors to sedate their patients. It is also used in racing car engines, to give them extra power. Which might help to understand why the tanker exploded in the first place. When nitrous oxide gets hot it breaks down into two components, nitrogen and oxygen. Investigators think that when a tanker was being loaded with the cold, liquid gas, the pump malfunctioned and heated the gas, which started to break down. This break-down released more heat and so the reaction continued, spiralling out of control until the tank blew up.

The Florida plant has been closed since the deadly August explosion. Airgas has two other factories in the US, but those facilities have not been able to keep up with demand. "Airgas Nitrous Oxide is making all possible efforts to remedy the situation as quickly as possible," the company said in a statement. "Serving our medical customers is our first priority in this situation. We are providing reduced product quantities to customers in the food industry until supply has stabilized." And so the chain-reaction continues. Because in November, Con-Agra, the company that manufactures canned whipped cream, stopped all production of their canned cream, known as Reddi-wip. They have stated that they hope to be able to restart manufacturing early in the new year.

In the meantime, folks who have relied on the easy shake-and-squirt method of whipped cream production will have to go back to the old tried-and-true method of just whipping it by hand.

The priority for Airgas, right now, is to…
supply the food industry
supply medical customers
find out what went wrong
keep motor racing going
The most important ingredient in a can of whipped cream is…
nitrous oxide
How do people get whipped cream at present?
Buy it in aerosol cans
Get it from another company
Whip cream and sugar by hand
Use another kind of gas
The article describes the August explosion as "deadly". What does this adjective mean?
Someone was killed
There was much damage
The cost was very high
It was spectacular
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little or no human control    



able to work on its own



the parts that make up a whole



go on and on



did not stop, carried on



keeps on going



operate a machine or equipment / the power to change or direct something



made specially for a particular person



people who buy goods from a business



a special or expensive food



delightful or very tasty



the amount of something needed at one time



with nothing in between



burst or broke violently



related to a festival such as Christmas



the making of goods or services



broke down, went wrong   



making things using machinery



make (something) on a large scale using machinery



a colorless, odorless unreactive gas that forms about 78 percent of the earth's atmosphere


ni-trous ox-ide 

a gas used as an anesthetic   



a binary compound of oxygen with another element or group



behave because of something



a device to keep food cold



feel sympathy or identify with    



to let go



set free, allowed to move



depended on, could not do without



to calm or make someone sleep  



not enough of something that is needed