Three people hospitalized after inhaling chemical aboard barge

Three Ingram Barge Co. employees were exposed to a hazardous chemical and hospitalized after cleaning a barge along the Ohio River near Catlettsburg, Ky.

The trio came into contact with methyl methacrylate (MMA) vapors when they opened a hatch at about 1015 on March 10.

Initially the employees complained of burning eyes, shortness of breath and dizziness in addition to breathing difficulties. The company would not specify how the men were exposed to the chemical.

The employees were treated for chemical inhalation and held overnight for observation before being released from a local hospital, according to Elizabeth Fielding, a spokeswoman for the company. Fielding said the employees experienced no lasting effects from the incident.

According to local news reports, the employees opened a hatch and were exposed to the fumes in preparation for cleaning the barge. The three were then transported by an Ingram towboat about five miles downriver to the Merdie Boggs & Sons wharf at Catlettsburg at mile marker 317.6.

Firefighters and emergency workers were waiting there and performed decontamination procedures before taking them to the hospital. One person was carried to the ambulance on a stretcher while the others were able to walk on their own power.

Decontamination procedures consisted of removing the employees’ clothes and then rinsing them with water.

The incident led emergency officials to close a five-block section of the street adjacent to the dock for about two hours. However, local officials said there was no danger to the public.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, respirators should be used when entry into a tank or confined space that has contained MMA is required.

MMA is a colorless, inflammable liquid with an acrid, fruity odor that can cause irritation to the skin, eyes and respiratory system, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. MMA is used in the manufacture of resins and plastics and is used in medicine, dentistry and the construction industry.

By Professional Mariner Staff