Toxic Chemical Injuries are a hazard for those of us who share our communities with chemical refineries. We are constantly at risk for exposure to accidental releases of hazardous chemicals. Many major refining companies such as British Petroleum (BP) and DuPont have been linked to recent refinery accidents. On January 25, 2007, there was an accidental chemical release at the DuPont chemical plant in La Porte, Texas, which is a suburb of Houston. Officials said that the chemical, "Oleum," was released from the unit that produces sulfuric acid. Most of the vapors appear to have been blown away from major population centers towards Galveston Bay. However, those on and near Galveston Bay who were in the path of the release chemicals may not have been so lucky.
In general (not specifically related to the chemical Oleum), exposure to toxic chemicals can cause blindness, corneal scarring, burns, tissue necrosis, cancer, respiratory illnesses, neurological disorders, leukemia, cancer, respiratory illnesses, organ failure, dizziness, nausea and death. Oleum can cause respiratory illnesses if inhaled. Symptoms include breathing problems and a burning sensation in the throat.
La Porte residents were warned that if their eyes, nose or throat became irritated, they should protect their breathing by covering their mouths with a damp cloth, take frequent, shallow breaths and stay calm.
Emergency officials issued a "shelter-in-place" advisory, which included a warning that residents should:
- Go inside.
- Shut all doors and windows.
- Turn off air conditioners and heaters to prevent outside air from getting inside.
- Stay off the phone.
- Do not use fireplaces. Put out fires and close all dampers.
- Move to a room with the fewest windows and doors. Tape around doors, windows, exhaust fans and vents using plastic sheeting or garbage bags, if directed.
- Turn on the radio or television to listen for further instructions.
Officials also advised residents to have the following items in a shelter-in-place kit:
- Two rolls of duct tape
- Cloth and paper towels
- Plastic sheets or trash bags
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- Battery-powered radio
- Two gallons of water
- Nonperishable foods
Ogletree, Abbott, Clay & Reed, L.L.P., represents those who are injured by the negligence of refineries, especially those who are injured by toxic chemicals. If you are diagnosed with an illness that may be linked to toxic chemicals, you should call our Houston, Texas, law firm at 713-223-1234 or contact us by email.