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What is Butadiene, the chemical burning at the Port Neches plant explosion?

Port Neches chemical plant fire
Port Neches chemical plant fire (KPRC)

PORT NECHES, Texas – A plant explosion in Port Neches rattled the east Texas city, knocking out windows and igniting a massive fire at the plant.

There have been no fatalities reported, but following the explosion, officials ordered a mandatory evacuation for people near the plant and a shelter-in-place for surrounding areas due to health concerns.

Officials said one of the chemicals burning is butadiene.

Here is what you need to know about the toxic chemical:

What is Butadiene?

According to OSHA.gov, the chemical is a colorless, flammable gas that smells mildly like gasoline.

How is it used?

Butadiene is primarily used to make many synthetic materials like rubber, neoprene and other plastics, but it is mainly used for making tires, according to Americanchemistry.com.

What happens when Butadiene gets into the environment?

The chemical will evaporate into the air, even from water or dirt, and will break down quickly in sunlight. According to Americanchemistry.com, “environmental sources include industrial releases from butadiene production and use, automobile exhaust, cigarette smoke and other combustion sources.”

What are the risks associated with Butadiene?

It is a known carcinogen. Short term exposure to Butadiene can cause eye, nose or throat irritation, drowsiness and lightheadedness. Studies have linked long term exposure to the chemical to heart disease, reproductive issues, birth defects and cancer, according to OSHA.gov.

Officials with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality have continued to monitor air quality and have reported that all air levels remain normal so far.

The TCEQ will continue to monitor the air for changes.


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