SPOKANE, Wash., Aug. 13 (UPI) — Up to a dozen people were injured — eight critically — and area businesses were evacuated Wednesday after toxic chlorine gas was released at a recycling center.
Workers at Pacific Steel and Recycling were exposed when a cloud of yellow vapors was released from a one-ton cylinder being crushed for scrap metal. Initially, rescue workers identified the chemical as arsenic trichloride, but it was later determined to be chlorine.
“This has been a really difficult day,” Assistant Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer said. “We were dealing with a chemical we don’t usually deal with and it was really hot here, over 100 degrees.”
As Spokane firefighters arrived, many workers were already overcome by the fumes. Exposed workers were decontaminated and hospitalized. Nearly 20 businesses nearby were evacuated as 120 firefighters from around the area responded. By late Wednesday, the evacuation order was lifted for the buildings in a safe zone. Those close to the recycling center remained closed. It is unclear how many remain hospitalized early Thursday.
The Centers for Disease Control said chlorine is a lung damaging agent that can cause mild to severe respiratory problems depending on the intensity and length of exposure.