A chemical explosion in Spain formed a toxic cloud, which spread over several miles. An estimated 65,000 residents were warned to stay inside their homes and close their windows to avoid inhaling the harmful fumes.
Authorities said the toxic cloud originated at a warehouse in Igualada. During deliver, ferric chloride and nitric acid were inadvertently mixed. The resulting explosion injured two workers and ignited a nearby truck.
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A spokeswoman for the Catalonia fire department confirmed two people received non life-threatening injuries in the initial explosion. However, a huge orange cloud, which was created in the blast, is an ongoing concern.
Residents in Igualada, and four other towns, were cautioned to avoid inhaling the fumes. Although the cloud is an unusual sight, residents were further warned not to expose themselves by taking photos. Roads in and out of Ingualada were closed immediately following the blast to prevent unnecessary exposure to the toxic fumes.
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As reported by CBS News, the initial warning was partially lifted after two hours. However, authorities in Spain said the toxic cloud remains a concern for children, the elderly, pregnant women, and residents with existing respiratory issues.
The Open Chemistry database explains that nitric acid is a colorless liquid, commonly used in the manufacturer of explosives and fertilizers. Although symptoms may be delayed, they can include a burning sensation in the chest, coughing, and difficulty breathing. Prolonged exposure can lead to chronic bronchitis or chemical pneumonitis.
Ferric chloride is a compound commonly used in the treatment of drinking water and sewage. Although it is not combustible, ferric chloride can become explosive when mixed with other compounds. When burned, the compound releases toxic fumes, which can cause coughing and throat irritation.
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As Spain’s toxic cloud has begun to dissipate, it is not expected to cause further issues for healthy adults. However, children, the elderly, pregnant women, and residents with existing respiratory issues, are urged to stay inside until health officials lift all warnings.
In October 2014, a similar incident occurred at a refinery in Linden, New Jersey. As reported by CBS News, “a 25 percent concentration of ethylaluminum dichloride in a hydrocarbon oil” spilled inside the plant. As a result, a large black cloud formed over the Bayway Refinery Complex.
Authorities determined that the toxic cloud “did not pose a threat to the surrounding area.” However, local residents were encouraged to stay inside with their doors and windows closed until the cloud was gone.
Spain’s toxic cloud has not caused any serious injury. However, officials are still taking precautions to prevent medical issues.
[Image via Wikimedia]