Last Thursday a leak at BASF’s Seal Sands facility outside Billingham, Teesside, left 37 workers requiring medical treatment.

As Edie went to press one of the victims was still in hospital in a serious condition, another was reported to need extensive plastic surgery and 15 had been treated in hospital for chemical burns, skin irritation and respiratory problems.

According to the chemical company, the incident occurred at its Teesside nylon plant at roughly 9:30am last Thursday, January 4, and involved a leak of around 4.5 tonnes of Hexamethylenediamine (HMD), a corrosive chemical used in the manufacture of a wide range of plastics which is considered hazardous in high concentrations.

The substance can be absorbed into the body by inhalation of its aerosol, through the skin and by ingestion. Inhalation is the most common source of exposure, as the chemical evaporates at 20°C contaminating air close to the leak.

Large spills of HMD pose a serious environmental risk, as the substance is highly corrosive, particularly when combined with water, and can easily damage flora and fauna.

The cause of the leak is still unknown and will be the subject of a lengthy investigation by the Health & Safety Executive, which has said it will be looking at management systems, equipment and facilities at the site as well as conducting a series of interviews with all staff involved.

According to the emergency services, who were joined by specialist contractors SembCorp Emergency who are retained by BASF to respond to this kind of incident, the public were not at any risk from the leak.

The site is to remain closed whilst the investigation takes place.

Sam Bond

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie