Workers Sent To Hospital Over Chemical Leaks

Workers Sent To Hospital Over Chemical Leak

( – La Quesera Mexicana is a cheese factory located in Greeneville, Tennessee. Recently, a scare at the facility landed half a dozen people in the hospital. But just when first responders thought the system was safe, a second incident happened, sending dozens more to local medical facilities for care.

On December 20, The Guardian reported a dangerous anhydrous ammonia (NH3) leak at the cheese factory that caused the first wave of workers to seek medical attention. The Greenville Fire Department responded to the call and fixed the problem — for the moment. About three hours later, another leak came in from the same facility. That time, 23 more people had to be hospitalized, and another 53 needed evaluations to ensure they weren’t sick.

NH3 is a chemical compound typically used as a refrigerant in food processing plants — like cheese factories. While the gas is colorless, it has a strong odor, making it quickly detectable. Unfortunately, the substance can cause serious health problems for people who inhale it or have their skin or eyes exposed to the compound. It can even be deadly. Facilities use NH3 to cool and store their products.

According to The Greenville Sun, the problem was a leaky valve, exposing workers to the toxic substance. Ballad Health Trauma Network reportedly kept the patients for the mandatory six-hour evaluation period and released most of the workers.

The next day, all of the patients had been cleared and released. Several entities, including the Greeneville Community Hospital, Johnson City Medical Center, the local EMS, representatives from the state’s Emergency Management Agency, and the Ballad Health team, all worked together to swiftly respond to the incident.

Ballad Health released a statement commending everyone for their work to ensure “every patient received quality healthcare” in the aftermath of the leak. It said the network was “proud” of all involved.

The Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating the incident.

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