Chemical Leak Kills Four in Plant Near Houston
A defective valve is blamed in the deaths of four workers at a DuPont facility in La Porte, Texas, around 4 a.m., Saturday, November 15. The federal Chemical Safety Board has sent investigators to the plant. Sources say that the dead included workers who were responding to the leak. Among the dead are two brothers, one of whom died trying to rescue the other. A fifth worker was treated for exposure, but released from the hospital.
The deadly chemical—methyl mercaptan—is used to give the familiar rotten egg smell to natural gas, making it more readily detectable. It is also used in fungicides and insecticides. Industry officials say that, in large doses, it can lead to vomiting, loss of consciousness and death. Residents around the plant reported smelling the gas, but also acknowledged that there are “funny smells” produced by the plant all the time. Officials said that the methyl mercaptan gas spread across the area as a result of the leak, but claim that it dissipated and posed no threat to the public.
This is not the first time in recent memory that DuPont has seen the death of an employee in one of its chemical plants. The company was cited in 2011 by the Chemical Safety Board for allowing “a series of preventable safety shortcomings” that resulted in the death of a worker at its Belle, West Virginia, facility. A year earlier, the Chemical Safety Board determined the death of a DuPont worker in Buffalo, New York, was attributed to the company’s failure to monitor flammable gas levels in a storage tank scheduled to be welded.
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