POINT COMFORT – Six Alcoa employees and one contract worker were rushed to Victoria and Galveston hospitals after coming in contact with hydrogen fluoride gas at 1 p.m. Wednesday at the Point Comfort plant, marking at least the second time this year employees have come into contact with the gas in that part of the plant.
In January, John Dorton, 37, of Port Lavaca died after inhaling the gas.
The employees were working in the area of the plant where aluminum fluoride is made, according to a news release issued late Wednesday afternoon by Alcoa officials. Aluminum fluoride is used in making aluminum.
Laurel Cahill, Alcoa’s pubic information officer, said no other details are available at this time.
As a precaution, two people were transported by air ambulance to the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, according to the release.
“We felt it was a good precautionary measure to transport them to Galveston to be evaluated and treated there,” Cahill said.
Officials at the Galveston hospital said the patients declined to have any information released regarding their conditions.
The other five employees were taken to Citizens Medical Center in Victoria. Attempts to get information on their conditions were not successful Wednesday night.
Alcoa did not release employees’ names.
Cahill said there are two different routes of exposure. It can be inhaled or by bodily contact. “That’s what the investigation will show.”
Alcoa has begun an investigation into the matter and inspectors from the Mine Safety and Health Administration will be at the plant today, according to the news release.
“These are the details known at this time,” the release continued. “Alcoa will provide additional information as it becomes available.”
According to the Department of Health and Human Services Web site, “hydrogen fluoride is a colorless, fuming liquid or gas with a strong, irritating odor.” Although “hydrofluoric acid is weak compared with most other mineral acids, it can produce serious health effects by any route of exposure. These effects are due to the fluoride ion’s aggressive, destructive penetration of tissues.”