Deer Park residents have been on high alert since Sunday, when a fire broke out at the Intercontinental Terminals Company plant on Independence Parkway, north of Highway 225, along the Houston Ship Channel. Dark smoke pummeled the air above the facility as a number of chemical tanks at the plant were consumed by the blaze.
Local residents were originally warned to “shelter in place,” and Highway 225 was closed from Beltway 8 to Independence Parkway. Although officials have been carefully monitoring the air around the Deer Park chemical plant, many residents continue to worry about the danger of breathing in and being exposed to harmful toxins from the fire.
What Happened at the ITC Plant?
The fire started in a single tank on Sunday, March 17, and quickly spread to a second tank. The original tank contained naphtha, a volatile gasoline component, and a leak from that tank is believed to have been the source of the fire, officials reported.
As of Monday morning, the company reported that the fire had spread to eight tanks at the facility. Later that day, the company said the blaze actually affected six tanks.
Firefighters worked tirelessly to contain the blaze with water and foam, with the goal of being able to close the valves on the tanks and let the fire extinguish itself.
What Chemicals Are Being Released in the Air?
The tanks at the ITC facility contain gasoline components that can be extremely harmful when inhaled. Officials reported that the tanks affected by the blaze contained:
Naphtha: This petroleum product can cause irritation to the nose, throat, and eyes, as well as headaches, nausea, and vomiting. Long-term naphtha health effects include damage to the respiratory system, damage to the central nervous system, kidney problems, and cancer.
Xylene: This gasoline component is a solvent that naturally occurs in petroleum, the company reported. If swallowed or inhaled, xylene may be fatal. Victims may also experience xylene health effects such as irritation to the skin, eyes, nose, and throat.
Toluene: This colorless liquid is used as a gasoline additive and in nail polish remover, paint thinner, and glue. People who inhale, swallow, or come into contact with toluene through their skin or eyes may experience a range of symptoms, including damage to the central nervous system. Toluene health effects include headaches, dizziness, and irritated skin, eyes, nose, and throat. Victims may also notice problems with hearing and color vision.
How Do I Know If I’m Being Affected by the Chemicals?
You should talk to a doctor immediately if you believe you have been exposed to chemicals from the fire and are experiencing symptoms such as:
- Eye irritation
- Skin irritation
- Respiratory problems
- Irritation of the nose and throat
Report Exposure and Health Effects Immediately
If you are smelling a gasoline-like odor or are experiencing symptoms of chemical exposure, call the county pollution control at (713) 920-2831.
If you believe your health has been affected, you should also speak with a qualified Houston refinery accident attorney from The Law Offices of Hilda Sibrian. Our lawyers are skilled at fighting for the rights of workers and residents who suffer serious health effects from accidents that could and should have been prevented.
The sad truth is that since 2003, ITC has received 35 reports of emitting air contaminants. We believe that large companies like this should not be allowed to put innocent people’s health at risk. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation if you have been harmed by the Deer Park tank fires.
Houston Chronicle: Deer Park petrochemical fire expected to last 'throughout the night'
ABC 13: What we know about the chemicals burning in the tanks at the ITC plant in Deer Park
CNN: Schools to reopen while firefighters battle blaze at Texas chemical plant
NBC News: Houston-area chemical fire expected to burn for days