Dow Chemical Leak Forced The Evacuation. Dow Chemical Plant leak in Hahnville, Louisiana affect you and your family? On July 7, 2009, a leak of ethyl acrylate at Dow Chemical’s St. Charles Operations facility forced the evacuation of people living around the plant. Ethyl acrylate is a foul-smelling chemical that can irritate the nose, throat and lungs, and many of those living in the vicinity of the Dow Chemical Plant leak were forced to go to the hospital because of the chemical’s side effects.
In fact, the health consequences of the Dow Chemical Plant leak are still being assessed.In addition to concerns about the health problems associated with the Dow Chemical Plant leak, media reports have raised concerns about the timeliness of Dow’s response to the accident. Our Dow Chemical Plant leak lawyers are conducting an aggressive investigation to determine if the company’s response to the incident was adequate.
We are offering free case evaluations to anyone who was affected by the Hahnville, Louisiana Dow Chemical Plant leak. If you or someone you love suffered from the effects of ethyl acrylate exposure, or were evacuated because of this accident, we want to hear from you. Please contact one of our Dow Chemical Plant leak lawyers right away to protect your legal rights.
Aftermath of the Dow Chemical Plant Leak
The Dow Chemical Plant leak occurred early in the morning at the company’s St. Charles Operations facility. It was reportedly caused by a malfunctioning vent on a 640,000 gallon storage tank. Firefighters were knocking on residents’ doors, advising them to leave by 7:00 a.m., the New Orleans Times-Picayune said.
The foul odor from the ethyl acrylate drifted out of St. Charles Parish, and could be smelled throughout New Orleans that Tuesday. According to the Times-Picayune, winds and storms helped carry the fumes throughout Louisiana.
According to the Times-Picayune, some residents near the plant who woke up to the smell and were affected by the odor complained that they were told that nothing serious was going on. According to one local TV report, many residents were wondering why there were no sirens or alerts to notify them of the odor that swept across the parish and surrounding areas, and why it took so long for information to reach mainstream media outlets.
At least 27 people were taken to the hospital complaining of symptoms like eye and nose irritation. The potential danger forced parish officials to block off parts of River Road near the Dow Chemical Plant, and those closest to the plant were forced to flee. As of Wednesday, fenceline neighbors of the Dow Chemical plant are still being kept out of their homes, the Times-Picayune said.
One environmental group reported getting calls from as far away as St. Bernard Parish from people concerned about the foul odor from the leak. Many callers reported feeling ill as a result of the smell. Symptoms included nausea and light-headedness.
While both Dow Chemical and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) maintained early on that the ethyl acrylate leak posed no health threat, many people were unconvinced. The spokesperson for the environmental group Louisiana Bucket Brigade told WWLTV that both Dow and DEQ “need to honestly assess the situation for health impacts instead of making blanket statements that everything is fine.”
Ethyl acrylate is used in the production of polymers including resins, plastics, rubber, and denture material. It is a clear liquid with an acrid, penetrating odor, and has an odor threshold of 0.0012 parts per million (ppm).
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), acute (short-term) exposure of workers to ethyl acrylate vapors has been reported to cause drowsiness, lethargy, headache, nausea, convulsions, and respiratory and gastrointestinal irritation. Noncancerous lesions and inflammation of the nasal mucosa and depressed body weight gain have been observed in rats and mice exposed by inhalation for a chronic (long-term) duration.
The EPA says that human studies on occupational exposure to ethyl acrylate have suggested a relationship between exposure to the chemical and colorectal cancer, but the evidence is conflicting and inconclusive. In a study by the National Toxicology Program (NTP), increased incidences of squamous cell papillomas and carcinomas of the fore stomach were observed in rats and mice exposed via gavage (experimentally placing the chemical in the stomach). The EPA has classified ethyl acrylate as a Group B2, probable human carcinogen, but has not developed a potency estimate to quantify risk by inhalation.
The signs and symptoms of short-term ethyl acrylate exposure include irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, with tearing, runny nose, and burning of the throat. Chronic exposure to ethyl acrylate may cause skin sensitization, with redness, swelling, and itching of the affected areas.
In people with impaired lung functions, exposure to ethyl acrylate can be especially dangerous, and can cause symptoms to worsen. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that anyone who may have been exposed to ethyl acrylate seek medical advice if they experience any of the above symptoms.