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One employee was injured in a chemical spill at a factory in Chicago's Brighton Park neighborhood on April 15. According to the Chicago Tribune, a hazardous materials crew and other response crews were called to the spill at about 1 p.m and the spill was secured within about half an hour. The factory reportedly houses Kocour Co., a metal finishing company, and is located in an industrial area.
Sources also stated there were reports of a possible explosion that occurred as a result of the chemical spill.
So far, the fire department believe the spilled chemical was sodium hypochlorite. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the chemical is used for its bleaching, disinfecting and oxidizing properties.
The Sun-Times said an unconfirmed report from fire dispatchers also stated the explosion was caused when chemicals, including cyanide, were mixed at the location.
The injured individual was taken to a nearby hospital in fair-to-serious condition, the Sun-Times reported.
Dangers of sodium hypochlorite
Known by several other names including Clorox, liquid bleach and sodium oxychloride, sodium hypochlorite is a dangerous substance and can cause damage to individuals who come into contact with it without the proper safety equipment.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, sodium hypochlorite is usually a greenish yellow solution and can react explosively when it comes into contact with other solutions or substances.
Sodium hypochlorite is mostly sold as a water solvent with as much as 15 percent of the dangerous substance and often smells like chlorine. The CDC said that the odor of sodium hypochlorite may not provide enough warning to those around of a hazardous concentration.
Higher levels of the substance can be emitted when it is mixed with acids or ammonia – other toxic substances.
Exposure of sodium hypochlorite can include inhalation, skin or eye contact and ingestion. Skin and eye irritation or burning, respiratory issues and gastrointestinal issues are associated with exposure and poisoning.
If employees, especially those working in chemical factories, are exposed to sodium hypochlorite for extended periods of time, skin irritation can occur.
An industrial fire alarm and toxic gas detectors can alert employees and factory managers to dangerous and potentially explosive situations involving reactive chemicals.
Industrial Safety News brought to you by Safety Systems Technology, Inc., leaders in fire and gas detection systems.