2 firefighters, 20 others taken to hospital in Chesterfield DuPont leak

Chesterfield fire and emergency crews are responding to an incident at the DuPont Spruance...
Chesterfield fire and emergency crews are responding to an incident at the DuPont Spruance plant. (Source: NBC12)
Published: Apr. 27, 2015 at 3:41 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 27, 2015 at 10:44 PM EDT
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CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - A total of 22 people, including two firefighters, have been taken to the hospital following a chemical leak at DuPont's Richmond Zytel plant, according to Chesterfield Fire officials.

The leak, which was reported around 10:45 a.m., has been contained to the plant, according to company officials. Fire and company officials say maintenance work was being done to a line when the leak of a heating fluid occurred. The liquid heating fluid vaporizes at a high temperature, officials said and inhalation can irritate the lungs and throat.

Initially only one employee was transported for possible exposure to the vapor, according to DuPont officials. However, fire officials updated the number to 22 around 3 p.m. They say the injuries are minor and the victims were only taken to the hospital as a precaution.

Twelve other employees were treated at the scene, but didn't require hospitalization.

The company says there was no fire and no community evacuations were needed.

"The leak itself was on the outside of the building in one of the pipes that run along throughout the facility…This vapor can be flammable so we had our crews standing by in case there was a fire. There has been no fire at this time. It appears the leak has been contained," said Lt. Jason Elmore.

Zytel is a family of polyamides, according to DuPont, and resembles nylon. It's used to reduce weight, improve strength, enhance durability, increase thermal performance, and simplify processing, according to the company.

Zytel was used at the Atlanta Olympics in the shoes worn by US sprinter Michael Johnson during the 200m and 400m events and has also been used in knives, shotgun shells, and inline skates.

Full statement from DuPont:

At approximately 10:45 a.m. today, the DuPont Richmond Zytel® site experienced a vapor release of Dowtherm, a liquid heating fluid. There was no fire, and local county and DuPont emergency responders used water to dissipate and contain the vapor release to the site. DuPont workers near the incident were relocated to other plant offices, and there was no impact to the local community.

Twenty DuPont workers and two county firefighters were transported to off-site medical facilities for precautionary monitoring, and have been released. Additionally, 12 workers were evaluated at the scene, and have been released. There were no reported injuries.

The cause of the release is under review. We will provide additional updates as warranted.

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