Ten Tyson poultry workers still hospitalized after gas exposure

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 29, 2011 5:44 PM
Ten Tyson poultry workers still hospitalized after gas exposure

By Suzi Parker

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas (Reuters) - Ten workers remained hospitalized on Wednesday after chemical exposure this week at a Tyson Foods Inc. chicken processing plant in Springdale, Arkansas.

On Monday, an accidental mixture of chemicals resulted in chlorine gas, which prompted Tyson, the largest meat producer in the world, to evacuate part of its poultry plant.

Three hundred people were evacuated and 172 taken by ambulance or bus to local hospitals to be evaluated, authorities said.

Chlorine gas causes respiratory illnesses and can be fatal.

The portion of the plant that was affected slaughtered chickens. The plant does not use chlorine gas, said Gary Mickelson, a Tyson spokesman.

Duane Atha, Springdale's fire chief, told Reuters the plant's safety director had advised authorities that sodium hypochlorite and an acid-based disinfectant mixed to create the chlorine gas.

An Occupational Safety & Health Administration spokesman said the agency has opened an investigation.

The company has set up a temporary medical clinic at the plant this week, staffed by a physician, to do follow-up evaluations with affected staff members, Mickelson said.

Additional human resources staff and chaplains have also been brought in to assist workers and their families.

"Our team members are the most important part of our business, so we're doing everything possible to help them through this difficult time," Mickelson said.

(Editing by Karen Brooks and Jerry Norton)