1,000 Flee Toxic Chemical Spill in Baltimore

Associated Press

Nearly 1,000 residents of a Baltimore suburb were forced to leave their homes Friday after a "highly toxic, highly flammable" chemical leaked from a truck, officials said.

There were no reports of serious injury or illness, but three firefighters and two trucking company employees were examined at South Baltimore General Hospital after being exposed to the chemical.

More than 600 of those evacuated spent the early morning hours at Brooklyn Park High School, while others made other arrangements.

The residents were allowed to return home at 10:30 a.m. after air quality tests indicated that the danger was past, state air quality chief George Ferrari said.

County police spokesman Dick Molloy said the chemical, methyl acryleate, leaked about 7:45 p.m. Thursday as it was being transferred from one truck to another at Matlack Trucking Co. in the Brooklyn Park area of Anne Arundel County.

Police responding to a call about a strong chemical odor discovered that about 100 gallons of the chemical had spilled on the ground, Molloy said. The spill was contained at about 10:15 p.m., and police and fire units cleared the area, Molloy said.

But about 90 minutes later, police and fire phones began ringing again as people called to complain of the odor, which seemed to make breathing difficult. The evacuation began at 2:30 a.m.

Molloy said an invisible vapor cloud formed by the spill could have caused breathing problems. When highly concentrated, the chemical is "very dangerous," especially for those with respiratory problems, Molloy said.

The chemical is used in making acrylic plastic products and in the production of vitamin B-1.

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