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Chemical Spills and Accidents

What are they?

A chemical emergency occurs when a hazardous chemical has been released and the release has the potential for harming human health. During emergencies, chemicals are most commonly released from businesses and industries (such as chemical plants and oil refineries), storage tanks, and agricultural facilities.
The types and amounts of chemicals released depend on factors such as:

  • Types of facilities in the area
  • Types of chemicals produced or kept at affected facilities
  • Structural damage to facilities
  • Weather conditions
  • Flooding conditions

See also: Chlorine

Why are they a concern?

If a hazardous chemical release occurs near where you live or work, you may be exposed to the chemical by:

  • Breathing the chemical
  • Swallowing contaminated food or water
  • Touching the chemical, or coming into contact with clothing or things that have touched the chemical

Even if you don’t see or smell anything unusual, you may be exposed.

Who is at risk?

People who live, work, or travel near a facility that stores substantial quantities of chemicals are at risk for harm.

What pollutants are of greatest concern?

Many hazardous chemicals are used in industry, such as:

Reduce your risk

  • Do you live, work, or travel near a facility that stores substantial quantities of chemicals onsite?
  • If you live near this kind of facility, find out if it has reported any chemicals spills. Find out if the chemicals could reach your home or elsewhere in the community.
  • Maintain a family emergency kit.
  • If you have to shelter in place following a chemical accident, close and lock all windows and doors, and turn off the home’s ventilation system to prevent contamination.
  • If you have been contaminated, contact 911.
  • Emergency responders will take steps to decontaminate you: shed contaminated clothing, shower, and put clean clothing on or wrap in a clean towel.
  • If your eyes are exposed to a corrosive agent, wash them eyes out with plenty of water for at least 15 minutes.
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