Breathing Issues Reported After Hydrochloric Acid Gas Leak

Seven employees treated for breathing issues to be OK

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBC 5 News
    Five people were treated for breathing problems after an HCL leak at Cowtown Redi-Mix on Aug. 14, 2014.

    Several employees at a concrete production facility in Fort Worth reported having minor trouble breathing Thursday after a storage tank at an adjacent business began leaking hydrochloric acid gas.

    Fort Worth firefighters were called to Cowtown Redi-Mix on the 3400 block of Bethlehem Avenue after several employees noticed the sharp, pungent odor associated with the compound.

    Cowtown Redi Mix spokesman Dave Guice said seven workers were treated after the vapors apparently drifted from the neighboring chemical facility, Valley Solvents & Chemicals.

    A spokesman for Valley Solvents & Chemicals in Fort Worth told The Associated Press that officials are investigating the release of the hydrochloric acid fumes related to hydrochloric acid.

    Employees at the scene told NBC 5 that a vent on a tank stopped working properly and that is what led to the leak. The tank is being allowed to vent, after which, the leak will be repaired.

    Officials with MedStar EMS said three of the seven patients were transported to a hospital for additional medical attention. All are expected to be OK. None of the injured were employees of the chemical company.

    The Environmental Protection Agency said hydrochloric acid, or HCL, is a colorless, nonflammable aqueous solution or gas.  It has an irritating odor and, as a corrosive, can pose health risks if inhaled.

    "Hydrochloric acid has many uses.  It is used in the production of chlorides, fertilizers, and dyes, in electroplating, and in the photographic, textile, and rubber industries.  Hydrochloric acid is corrosive to the eyes, skin, and mucous membranes.  Acute (short-term) inhalation exposure may cause eye, nose, and respiratory tract irritation and inflammation and pulmonary edema in humans.  Acute oral exposure may cause corrosion of the mucous membranes, esophagus, and stomach and dermal contact may produce severe burns, ulceration, and scarring in humans.  Chronic (long-term) occupational exposure to hydrochloric acid has been reported to cause gastritis, chronic bronchitis, dermatitis, and photosensitization in workers.  Prolonged exposure to low concentrations may also cause dental discoloration and erosion.  EPA has not classified hydrochloric acid for carcinogenicity."

    Cowtown Redi-Mix said they use the acid to break down concrete. The added they are experiencing delays filling orders Thursday as drivers are evaluated for exposure before leaving the concrete facility.

    NBC 5's Ellen Bryan contributed to this report.