Eight Texas Chemical Plant Workers Treated for Gas Exposure Following Leak

Reuters, December 4, 2023

Eight people were taken to a hospital for treatment on Monday after a toxic gas leak at Altivia Chemicals' plant in La Porte, Texas, local officials said.

An update on their condition was not immediately available. The city canceled a shelter-in-place order in the afternoon that had affected several nearby industrial plants, officials said.

The La Porte Office of Emergency Management (LPOEM) said the Fire Department and Harris County Pollution Control confirmed there were no "detectable amounts of immediately hazardous products" near or downwind the facility.

Officials had cautioned residents to shelter in place due to a phosgene gas leak at Altivia, a chemical manufacturer and transporter that develops phosgene derivatives for pharmaceuticals and the agriculture industry.

"Eight people were transported from Altivia due to exposure, and all were stable at the time of leaving the facility," said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, the county's top executive, in a social media post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

"This happens quite frequently, we aren’t surprised," said Ana Parras, executive co-director at Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services. "What they are producing is chemicals for plastic production, and there has been a rise in incidents" at Texas chemical plants.

The leak was the result of a ruptured pressure release device, Altivia said in a statement. All processes at its La Porte facility have been shut down, and its personnel contained the leak, the company added.

Phosgene is a colorless gas with a suffocating odor like musty hay that is used in the manufacture of other chemicals, pesticides and pharmaceuticals, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Exposure to phosgene gas may cause vomiting, breathing difficulty, chest pain and, in its liquid form, frostbite.

Halliburton's (HAL.N) Multi-Chem Bayport site, Stepan's (SCL.N) Pasadena facility, and three other sites belonging to Kuraray America, Evonik (EVKn.DE) and NCTI lifted orders to shelter in place, according to community alerts.

(Reporting by Deep Vakil and Rahul Paswan; Additional reporting by Georgina McCartney; Editing by Aurora Ellis, Matthew Lewis and Leslie Adler)

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