Last week, a Kansas-based manufacturer of food and beverage products accidently released a toxic chemical gas, a mixture of sodium hypocholorite and sulfuric acid, which sent over 100 people to the hospital. Fortunately, of the 125 people who sought medical attention, only two required an overnight stay in the hospital.
MGP Ingredients, which was responsible for the spill, explained that the gas spill had dissipated after only a few hours. Additionally, the company has reported the incident to the EPA and plans to fully cooperate with the investigation. The company is also taking additional measures to avoid any future spills by engaging outside experts to investigate and assess the situation.
How a Gas Spill Leads to Hospitalization
While large gas spills are not everyday news, it is not an uncommon occurrence for people to be hospitalized for exposure to toxic gases. Most commonly it is due to carbon monoxide, which nearly everyone has been warned that it is the silent killer.
Unfortunately, when a large gas spill happens near populated areas, individuals in the surrounding areas can have their health impacted. Usually, it is just for a short duration and only effects people within a certain radius from the spill. When the air that people breath has its chemical concentration changed, people can begin to notice problems, such as:
- Shortness of breath
- Light-headedness or dizziness
The symptoms can vary from severe to mild, from person to person, and in type or duration. For instance, a person with asthma, or another respiratory condition, will likely be more severely affected than someone without a respiratory condition.
Can a Company Be Held Liable for a Chemical Gas Spill?
When a toxic gas spill occurs, manufacturers can not only be held liable to the public for violations of anti-pollution laws, but can also be held liable to individuals who were injured, and/or affected, on a negligence theory. Since public gas spills tend to be atmospheric, meaning that a company released gas outside and not inside their buildings or buildings own by others, people generally are not severely affected. Nevertheless, companies can still be held liable for injuries or damages that an accidental release of gas can cause.
The numerous people who went to the hospital as a result of the recent Atchison, Kansas gas spill may have potential claims or lawsuits against MGP Ingredients as a result of the spill. While injuries of a very short duration may not be valued very highly, medical bills as well as incidental or special damages can also be assessed, in addition to damages for pain and distress.
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