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Hydrochloric acid breach at Ontario auto parts plant sends 23 to hospital

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While three people were more directly exposed to the industrial chemical in vapour form, which can cause severe burning for skin and lungs, all workers were discharged from the hospital on the day they arrived without serious injury. Photo credit: kittisak, stock.adobe.com

Twenty-three workers were taken to hospital last week following a hydrochloric acid spill at an automotive steering and suspension parts plant in St. Catharines, Ontario.

A paint system contractor accidentally hit a valve at THK Rhythm Automotive Canada Ltd., releasing some five litres of hydrochloric acid from a vat, the fire department told local news media.

While three people were more directly exposed to the industrial chemical in vapour form, which can cause severe burning for skin and lungs, all workers were discharged from the hospital on the day they arrived without serious injury.

Before heading to the hospital, all affected workers were taken to a decontamination facility within the plant.

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“In addition to working collaboratively with our community first responders, the Niagara Health response required a full team effort from ED physicians, nurses, staff and others who stepped up to deal with the situation,” announced Niagara Health in a statement.

To free up the emergency department’s resources on the morning of September 27, Niagara Health had asked the public to avoid coming to the hospital unless they were in a life-threatening situation.

THK representatives told CTV News that external remediation teams contained and removed all hazardous fluids and performed air sampling to allow the plant to reopen safely. Additionally, they noted that all Ministry of Labour investigations have been completed without any orders issued against THK.

Hydrochloric acid can have a variety of uses in an industrial setting, but is more commonly used to clean metal.

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