Four Killed in Chemical Leak at Houston DuPont Facility
Four workers at a DuPont chemical plant in La Porte, Texas, died last November when a deadly chemical leaked into the air.
Ironically, the chemical—methyl mercaptan—is typically mixed with odorless gases and other odorless chemical to provide a detectable smell, similar to rotten eggs. Neighbors of the facility told reporters that they smelled the methyl mercaptan, but did not attribute any sense of urgency or concern because there were often “funny smells” emanating from the plant. DuPont officials claim that the methyl mercaptan vapor spread across the area, but that it’s concentration outside the plant was never sufficient to pose a threat to residents around the plant.
According to reports, all four people who died were employees of DuPont. The death toll included two brothers, one of who died while coming to the aid of the other. DuPont also admitted that another employee was treated and released for exposure to the chemical. According to reports, the workers who died were trapped inside the plant for over an hour before anyone called 911.
Initial reports indicate that the leak resulted from a defective valve. Plant officials say that at least one of the workers who died was working to fix the valve at the time of his death.
Company records indicate that DuPont keeps between 50 and 250 tons of the methyl mercaptan on the premises at all times, even though the substance is rated as “highly toxic to human life.” The facility also houses a stockpile of methyl isocyanate (MIC), the toxic substance that caused the deaths of 2,200 people in Bhopal, India, in 1984.
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