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10 Hurt in Delaware Chemical Release

August 26, 2006

DOVER, Del. (AP) _ A chemical released into the air from an industrial plant Friday sent 10 people to the hospital, closed some roads and forced an unknown number of evacuations, state police said.

The release of the chemical at the Reichhold Chemicals was visible around a rail car parked on the plant site, state police spokesman Cpl. Jeffrey Whitmarsh said.

The rail car might have contained styrene, which is potentially flammable and can cause irritation if inhaled, Whitmarsh said.

Pam Chase told The (Wilmington) News Journal that she could see a ``mist across the ground″ and a ``steam or fog along the tracks.″

``It was a real strong smell of burning plastic,″ she said.

At a gas station about a mile from the plant, a state trooper jumped out of his vehicle and chased away a few customers, shouting: ``If you can smell that, you need to evacuate.″

Officials ordered evacuations in the immediate area around the plant, Whitmarsh said. He did not know how many people had left.

Ten people were taken to Kent General Hospital for treatment of respiratory irritation, he said.

Residents within five miles of the plant were urged to stay indoors, turn off air conditioning and close vents into their houses, Whitmarsh said.

Styrene is used by chemical companies that make plastics, synthetic rubber, resins and insulators, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Web site. Styrene vapor irritates the eyes, the nose, and the throat and can adversely affect the human nervous system.

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