100 taken ill in US gas leak
AP Tulsa (Oklahama), July 12, 2001
A VALVE on a chemical tank blew off and released toxic gas, sending nearly 100 people to hospitals with breathing problems and nausea. People exposed to arsine gas may not notice a reaction for several hours, medical officials warned on Wednesday.
"Reaction to the gas may be delayed and anyone who feels they have been exposed should seek medical attention," said Dr William Banner, medical director of Oklahoma State Poison Control.
Arsine destroys red blood cells and breathing even small amounts can be harmful.
Ambulances, city buses and private cars transported 95 people to hospitals, said Chris Metcalf, spokesman for the city's ambulance service.
The gas release occurred on a loading dock at Solkatronic Chemical, port spokesman Alan Vierthaler said. The fire department's hazardous materials unit placed the leaking tank in another container to stop the leak.
Solkatronic and one nearby business were evacuated. About 50 businesses are located in the industrial park at the Tulsa Port of Catoosa, an inland waterway near the Tulsa suburb. There is no antidote for arsine poisoning, but doctors can give exposed patients fluids to protect their kidneys, a poison control center report said. In severe poisoning, blood transfusions may be needed.
Incident Title: Nearly 140 People Sent to Hospitals After Valve on Tank Blows Off, Releasing Arsine; Effects Minimal
Location: Tulsa, OK, United States
Date of Incident: 7/11/2001 1:30 PM
CSB Incident Number: 2001-5161
CSB Incident Number is a sequential identification number assigned to all events listed in the CIRC.
NRC Report Number: None Reported
Board Ref. Number: None Reported
The Board Reference Number is assigned only to incidents which the Board studies.
Current Status: No CSB Action
Date of Report Update: 7/12/01 - 1:42 PM
Incident Types: Release to Environment
Location Types: Fixed Facility
Evacuations: Yes - Number Unknown
Injuries: 138 (Estimate)
Chemicals Involved: Arsine
Description or Latest Development:
----- Information Added: Thursday, July 12, 2001 - 1:45 PM -----
Dozens of people who feared they were exposed to a potentially lethal gas left area hospitals Thursday showing no ill effects.
At least 42 of the 138 people treated after Wednesday afternoon's release of arsine gas had gone home or were being released from hospitals Thursday morning. The others were listed in good condition and were expected to be released later Thursday (7/12/01).
Arsine is the most toxic form of arsenic, and breathing even small quantities can be harmful.
Five people who remained hospitalized at Hillcrest and Tulsa Regional medical centers complained of headaches and mild respiratory symptoms, said Sally Huggins, a spokeswoman for the two hospitals.
``No one had a serious injury as a result of the arsenic exposure, but they were symptomatic,'' she said.
The release took place around 1:30 p.m. Wednesday when a tank of arsine gas blew a valve at on the loading dock of Solkatronic Chemical at the river Port of Catoosa. Company officials believe a small amount of gas escaped from the 50-pound tank but didn't have specifics.
``We've got a team of experts that are going to evaluate exactly what happened,'' said Beth Mentesana, spokeswoman for Solkatronic's parent company, Allentown, Pa.-based Air Products and Chemicals.
Environmental Protection Agency investigators were taking air samples at the scene Thursday morning to determine if there was any residual contamination, EPA spokesman David Bary said. The agency also would be meeting with company officials to determine what caused the leak.
Several employees of Solkatronic and nearby Air-X-Changers reported hearing a loud ``pop'' just before people started running from the Solkatronic building. Both businesses were evacuated.
``I looked around the corner and saw a white cloudy gas spewing out,'' Air-X-Changers employee Doug Cammllarie told the Tulsa World. ``There was a lady right in it, flailing her arms. She ran one way, then another, like she didn't know what was going on. Then she ran out of the smoke. The smoke was just pouring out of there.''
Tulsa Fire Department's hazardous materials unit sealed off the area and assisted company workers who contained the leaking tank.
Solkatronic makes the gas, which is used in the manufacture of semiconductor chips for cell phones, light emitting diodes for signs, vehicle tail and stop lights and in communications lasers and fiber optic cable.
Mentesana said she knows of no other accidental releases at the Port of Catoosa facility.
News of a poison gas leak sent Collette Sumter scurrying to St. Francis Hospital in search of her husband, who works at Air-X-Changers.
Joe Sumter and other workers were rushed to hospitals via ambulance, bus and private cars following the release.
``I could not find out where he had been taken, to which hospital,'' Mrs. Sumter said, showing relief after being told by a nurse in the St. Francis emergency room that her husband was getting breathing treatments.
Arsine destroys red blood cells, which can lead to kidney failure. It has a garlic or fishy smell, but a person can be exposed to a hazardous concentration without smelling it.
``So far we have not had any evidence of people showing evidence of red cell breakdown,'' said Dr. William Banner, medical director of Oklahoma State Poison Control.
Some exposed workers' symptoms initially included vomiting, runny noses and trouble breathing, said Chris Metcalf, a spokesman for Tulsa's ambulance service.
A Tulsa World photographer was among those treated and was listed in good condition Thursday.
Several hospitals planned to keep their patients until Thursday evening for a full 24 hours of observation.
``Reaction to the gas may be delayed and anyone who feels they have been exposed should seek medical attention,'' Banner said. AP 07-12-01 1248EDT
----- Information Added: Thursday, July 12, 2001 - 1:09 PM -----
Almost 100 people were transported to hospitals by ambulances, city buses and private cars after a valve on a chemical tank blew off and released toxic arsine gas.
People exposed to the gas may not notice a reaction for several hours, medical officials warned.
"Reaction to the gas may be delayed and anyone who feels they have been exposed should seek medical attention," said Dr. William Banner, medical director of Oklahoma State Poison Control.
Arsine destroys red blood cells and breathing even small amounts can be harmful.
The release occurred around 2 p.m. on a loading dock at Solkatronic Chemical, according to Port of Catoosa spokesman Alan Vierthaler.
The fire department's hazardous materials team placed the leaking tank in another container to stop the leak.
The Tulsa Port of Catoosa is an inland waterway near the Tulsa suburb.
Solkatronic and one nearby business were evacuated.
Arsine is the most toxic form of arsenic, doing harm when ingested in even small quantities. The gas destroys red blood cells, which can lead to kidney failure. Exposure can cause chills, fever, dizziness, disorientation and abdominal pains.
The substance has a garlic or fishy smell, but a person can be exposed to a hazardous concentration without being able to smell it.
A call to the company from a news service for comment was routed to an answering machine. Authorities said company officials acted swiftly once the leak occurred.
Sources(* indicates the original source) And Source Details: Media - Associated Press * 07/11/01
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Last modified: 6 September 2001