LyondellBasell Chemical Leak in La Porte

What Caused the LyondellBasell Mass Casualty Incident in La Porte?

On July 27, 2021, a chemical leak at the LyondellBasell plant in La Porte caused the death of 2 workers, hospitalized 30 workers, and injured 24 more. Officials determined that the cause was a burst cap on a pressurized line containing acetic acid, the vapor of which was inhaled by plant workers and contractors. Over 100,000 pounds or 50 tons of acetic acid was released. The LyondellBasell chemical spill also included methyl iodide and hydrogen iodide. According to site manager Stephen Goff, a leak was detected around 7:30 PM during planned maintenance. The leak sourced back to an acetic acid reactor.

Of the 30 that were hospitalized, four remained hospitalized the next day for serious injuries, including one in critical condition with respiratory damage due to toxic exposure and another with burn injuries. At the scene, multiple agencies are investigating what happened, including Harris County Pollution Control, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, OSHA, the EPA, and the Chemical Safety Board.

Thus far, investigators have found no evidence of off-site impact, meaning the chemical spill was contained to the plant. Our LyondellBasell plant accident lawyers will conduct our own investigation on behalf of injured workers.

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Injuries & Long-Term Harm Caused by Acetic Acid

Acetic acid, or “glacial acetic acid,” is a chemical used in the production of polyester, fibers, containers, film, and tape. It’s also used in producing coatings, inks, cosmetics, and food preservatives. The La Porte LyondellBasell plant is the world’s third-largest glacial acetic acid producer.

The problem is that acetic acid, when inhaled, is also deeply harmful. It’s flammable and corrosive, causing severe skin burns or permanent respiratory damage under enough exposure; in some cases, it can cause a pulmonary edema, which causes potentially fatal fluid buildup in the lungs. It can also cause cornea damage.

One of the long-term effects of acetic acid exposure includes irregular heart rhythm, which can contribute to higher risk of stroke or blood clots. Long-term studies of acetic acid exposure also link it to permanent cracking and stiffening of the skin, bronchitis, and teeth erosion.

Does Acetic Acid Cause Cancer?

Research conducted on animals show no relationship between acetic acid and cancer. Additionally, acetic acid is unlikely to cause birth defects or congenital problems in children.

Who Is LyondellBasell?

The Netherlands-based LyondellBasell is one of the largest chemical and refining companies in the world. They were founded in 1953 and have since expanded to 55 manufacturing sites in 17 nations, with 13,000 employees—675 of whom were employed at the La Porte plant. LyondellBasell is particularly active in the US, where they operate one of the largest refineries in the country right here in Houston.

One of the premier products LyondellBasell makes is polyethylene, or PE. PE is used in everything from healthcare packaging to children’s toys to high-pressure pipes. The production of these high-use products includes the usage of highly toxic and volatile chemicals, including, of course, acetic acid.

A company with such a long history of chemical production should have a strong safety record, but that doesn’t appear to be the case with LyondellBasell—certainly not in the last several weeks.

LyondellBasell Acid Leak in La Porte Not the First Spill

July 2021 was a bad month for LyondellBasell’s safety record.

First, on July 13, their plant in Sulphur, LA released massive black smoke due to a power outage and heavy flaring. Then on July 16, a massive chemical leak that was causing headaches and nausea in Galena Park was traced back to the Houston LyondellBasell refinery. Finally, only days later, the nearby La Porte LyondellBasell plant leak caused two fatalities and dozens of injuries.

Three separate facilities, three separate chemical leaks. The only thing tying all of them together is LyondellBasell’s executive policy and workplace culture, both of which are a major contributor to chemical leaks.

The Cause of the LyondellBasell Chemical Leak in La Porte, TX

The government investigators working on the LyondellBasell case could take several months to over a year to conclude their investigation and publicize their findings. While we look forward to the specific findings brought forward in the investigation, our La Porte personal injury lawyers have enough experience with refinery accidents to know what causes most chemical spills.

In almost every plant accident we’ve investigated, the common factors were remarkably similar: corner-cutting on safety practices, long periods between maintenance, inadequate preparation or training, and a corporate culture that values speed over safety.

These factors overlap and exacerbate each other as well; for instance, long periods between scheduled maintenance periods make it difficult to develop the proper skills and habits workers need for safe maintenance. Executive pressure to produce higher volumes at a faster pace leads to corner-cutting on basic safety procedures.

With all of those factors present, it only takes one inattentive supervisor, one faulty part, or one honest mistake to trigger a mass casualty event. But the cause of these tragedies always predate the trigger by months or years.

Arnold & Itkin Is Investigating the LyondellBasell Chemical Leak in La Porte

For injured workers who’ve lost their careers or their health, waiting several months to a year for a government investigation is impossible. Additionally, these investigations are intended to prevent a chemical spill from happening again without addressing the needs of the people who have already been hurt. Our firm’s job is to investigate what happened on behalf of the injured and their families so we can help them rebuild their lives.

Arnold & Itkin is currently investigating the LyondellBasell acid leak in La Porte on behalf of the workers who were injured. We aim to determine exactly what happened, who was at fault, and then fight for our clients to recoup their medical costs, lost wages, and lifetime loss in quality of life. No matter what.

If you want answers about your options in the aftermath of the LyondellBasell plant leak, speak with our attorneys in a free consultation at (888) 493-1629.

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