'There are no chemical leaks out of control': Texas police play down fears of ammonium air leak following fertilizer plant blast
Toxic fumes from the blaze are 'under control' according to police chief Patrick Swanton
Blast is thought to have been caused by the ignition of dangerous anhydrous ammonia at the plantIf gas is inhaled it can cause eye irritation and damage the lungs
Michael Zennie, Anna Edwards and Katie Davies
04:35 GMT, 18 April 2013
18:44 GMT, 18 April 2013
Emergency workers have played down fears of a toxic air leak following the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas.
Initially reports suggested the farming community would be under a secondary danger of inhaling ammonia fumes which can cause respiratory problems.
However, Waco police chief Patrick Swanton, who is leading the operation on behalf of the town of West which is 20 miles away, says he now believes that danger has been mitigated.
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Chemical fire: Firefighters initially feared a noxious cloud of ammonia spreading over West, Texas. Police say now say the leak is under control
Air pollution: A cloud of fumes can be seen rising from the massive explosion at a fertilizer plant in the US state of Texas which flattened several buildings
According to Popular Science Anhydrous ammonia is a widely used form of fertilizer. It is compressed into a clear,
colorless liquid and stored at extremely low temperatures and stored in tanks
– When injected into the soil it 'is a potent way of making the soil more fertile'
– Once outside it reverts to its natural gas state so it can be inhaled causing damage to the lungs
– The 'anhydrous'
portion of its name means 'without water' and refers to the fact that it
reacts with water. It is dangerous to humans when it makes contact with water in the body like in the lungs and eyes
– Anyone suffering from ammonia irritation will need to flush the area with water to dilute the chemical
– Untreated in large quantities it can damage lung lining which is incredibly dangerous and can lead to death
– The website says the gas wouldn't have been the cause of the fire but would have exacerbated an initial blaze leading to the explosion. According to reports there was 54,000 pounds of it at the plant in West
'The town is secure. There are plenty of law enforcement officials that are stationed around the town,' Swanton said.
'There is no fire out of control. There is no chemical escape from the fertilizer plant that is out of control.'
'Air quality, at this point, is not an issue. It is not a concern.'
Last night authorities were concerned about a possible gas cloud creeping across the area from the blaze.
The U.S. Chemical Safety Board deployed a 'large investigation team' to the scene and The Texas Commission of Environmental Quality began monitoring air in the area.
Gov. Rick Perry said the air was being constantly monitored and gas distribution has been disconnected.
'We are … gathering information as details continue to emerge about this incident,' he said.
'We have also mobilized state resources to help local authorities. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of West, and the first responders on the scene.'
Locals reported a strong chemical smell after last night's explosion which occurred just before 8pm and doctors reported some people had irritated eyes and respiratory issues as a result of the fumes.
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