The Axiall Chlorine Spill and Your Health
This past weekend, many people in the communities surrounding Proctor were required to evacuate their homes due to a chemical leak. Multiple news sources reported that 33,000 gallons
of liquid chlorine leaked from a railcar inside a chemical facility owned by Atlanta-based Axiall Corporation. The leak created a chemical cloud that spread throughout the region, which caused complete traffic closures on State Highway 7 in Ohio, Highway 2 in West Virginia, and the Ohio River. The odor of the chlorine was said to be detectable more than six miles away
from the Axiall plant.
Throughout this week, I have had the opportunity to talk with local residents about the damages done to their properties. Many people’s grass, trees, gardens and other plants appear discolored and dead. Other people have said that the metal on their roofs, cars and homes appear discolored and damaged. One of the most common concerns is whether this chemical has the ability to harm the health of their children and loved ones. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
states that chlorine can be pressurized and cooled to change it into a liquid so that it can be shipped and stored. However, when the chlorine is released, it turns into a yellow-green gas that stays close to the ground and spreads rapidly. Chlorine can be in the form of a poisonous gas and has been used in weapons as a choking agent in wars such as the Civil War and WWI
. However, the extent of poisoning depends on the amount a person was exposed to, how the person was exposed and the length of the exposure. When chlorine gas comes into contact with moist tissues such as the eyes, throat and lungs, an acid is produced that can damage these tissues. An article titled Pulmonary or Choking Agents
published by the UPMC Center for Health Security, stated that even small amounts of chlorine gas can cause respiratory irritation, coughing and chest constriction. Additionally, exposure can cause blistering, blurred vision, nausea, low blood pressure, heart complications and burning of the eyes, nose and throat. Moreover, long-term results of exposure can include permanent damage to lung tissues and heart failure. The UPMC article also stated that diagnosing lung poisoning can be difficult, since there is no clinical test for detecting chlorine in the respiratory system. The article recommends that individuals who have come into physical contact with chlorine gas should do their best to decontaminate themselves and their surroundings. Individual’s skin should be rinsed with soap and water and their clothing should be sealed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that individuals who have been exposed seek medical attention as soon as possible. At Bordas & Bordas, we have the privilege of being allowed to stand up for and represent individuals to ensure that their rights are protected. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the Axiall chlorine spill and your rights, one of our attorneys would be happy to talk with you.