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Chemical leak at DuPont facility in Texas leaves four dead

Chemical leak at DuPont industrial site in Texas leaves four dead

A chemical leak at a Houston-area industrial site left four people dead and a fifth hospitalized early Saturday, according to DuPont.

An unknown quantity of methyl mercaptan, which DuPont says is used to odorize natural gas, leaked into the facility in La Porte, Texas, around 4 a.m., plant manager Randall Clements said in a statement.

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For the record: An earlier version of this post referred to the DuPont company as DuPont Chemical.

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Some of the employees who died may have been responding to the leak, according to DuPont's statement. The fifth employee is being held for observation, according to the statement, which did not describe her condition.

"There are no words to fully express the loss we feel or the concern and sympathy we extend to the families of the employees and their coworkers," Clements said. "We are in close touch with them and we are providing them every measure of support and assistance at this time."

It was not clear how the leak occurred or how many employees were on site at the time. In the statement, DuPont said the leak did not pose a danger to the community.

The plant, which sits near the Upper San Jacinto Valley, is located about 20 miles outside of Houston.

The victims' identities were not immediately released, and calls to La Porte city officials were not immediately returned. 

Shortly after the leak began, the La Porte Office of Emergency Management said on Twitter that a "rotten fish" smell was emanating from the area around the plant, but that there was no danger to the community.

According to an October 2008 report from the Environmental Protection Agency, methyl mercaptan is a colorless gas with a strong odor used in the manufacture of pesticides, jet fuels and plastics. The gas can greatly effect the central nervous system and can cause death by respiratory paralysis, according to the EPA report.

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