Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)


March 11, 2014

UPDATE: Towboat workers exposed to toxic chemical

CATLETTSBURG — Three towboat workers were taken off a vessel at Catlettsburg and rushed to a local hospital Tuesday after suffering effects from exposure to chemical vapors.

The workers, employees of the Ingram Barge Co. of Nashville, were performance maintenance work on an empty barge on the Ohio River near Huntington when they opened a hatch and were exposed to fumes from methyl methacrylate, or MMA, Catlettsburg Fire Chief Greg Payne said.

The three were transported via towboat about five miles downriver to Boggs Landing, where firefireighters and emergency workers were awaiting their arrival. They were taken off the boat, decontaminated and taken by ambulance to King’s Daughters Medical Center.

The decontamination consisted of taking their clothes and then spraying the men with water, Payne said.

The workers’ names were not released and their conditions were not immediately available.

Payne said all three workers were suffering from varying degrees of breathing difficulty. One of three appeared to have taken the brunt of the exposure and was in more distress than the other two, he said.

MMA is used in the manufacturing of resins and plastics.  According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, it is irritating to the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes in humans.  Allergic responses to skin exposure may develop and respiratory effects have been reported following both short- and long-term inhalation exposures.

“It’s very dangerous if inhaled, and that’s what they did,” Payne said.

The EPA considers MMA not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.

The incident was reported about 10:15 a.m. and resulted in a five-block section of Center Street being closed until emergency crews cleared the scene about noon.

The Catlettsburg Fire Department was assisted at the scene by the Ashland Fire Department, Boyd County Emergency Management Agency, Catlettsburg Police Department and Boyd County Emergency Medical Services.

KENNETH HART can be reached at khart@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2654.


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