Some Arkansas Chicken Plant Workers Still Hospitalized

June 30, 2011

Approximately 300 people at a Tyson Foods chicken processing plant in northwest Arkansas were evacuated and 173 were sent to local hospitals after an accidental mixture of chemicals created a chlorine gas inside part of the facility.

Company spokesman Gary Mickelson said chlorine fumes were noticed about 9:15 a.m. Monday in the food safety section of Tyson’s Berry Street plant in Springdale. About 600 of the plant’s 1,200 workers were at work, and 300 were affected by the gas.

Those who had breathing problems and headaches were sent to one of five area hospitals, but no injuries appeared life-threatening.

The workers were injured and the plant evacuated Monday when two chemicals were accidentally mixed, creating the gas as a byproduct of a chemical reaction. Company officials say human error played a role in the accident. The gas formed after chemicals were inadvertently mixed while about 300 employees were working. All were evacuated.

The chemicals were in a secured room, but the gas likely spread through the plant ventilation system.

A temporary medical clinic has been established at the plant and is staffed by a physician.

A spokesman for the Occupational Safety & Health Administration says the agency has opened an investigation that could take up to six months.

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