Expatica news

Chemical leak blamed for station evacuation

23 November 2004

AMSTERDAM — Officials have blamed a small leak of a highly flammable petroleum additive from a goods train for making 25 people ill in the eastern Dutch city of Arnhem.

The  city’s main train station was evacuated for several hours on Monday after a train passenger and several Dutch Rail NS employees reported feeling unwell.

Eight police officers also became ill after helping to evacuate the station. In all 25 people were affected.

Suspicion immediately focused on a goods train that was transporting tanks of Methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE), a highly flammable blending of chemicals used as an additive for unleaded petrol to achieve more efficient burning.

The goods train had been stationary beside a passenger train where one commuter and two train drivers began ill. Tests however failed to locate any sign of a leak from the MTBE tanks.

City officials suggested on Tuesday that a small amount of the chemical had escaped into the air because the lid on one of the tanks had not been closed properly. The claim was based on an investigation carried out by government inspectors.

By late afternoon on Monday the all-clear was given and people were allowed back into the station. Trains also began to run again to and from the station.

Breathing small amounts of MTBE for short periods can cause nose and throat irritation. Some people exposed to MTBE have reported having headaches, nausea, dizziness, and mental confusion. However, the actual levels of exposure in these cases are unknown and the symptoms may have been caused by exposure to other chemicals, according to the website of environmental information organisation ECO-USA.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news