11 employees hospitalized after chemical spill at SweeTarts factory
Lithium chloride salt solution leaked after pipe burst.
A chemical spill at a SweeTarts factory recently resulted in 11 employees being sent to local hospitals.
Nestle’s Itasca, Ill. factory, which makes the fruity candy, was evacuated after the spill, which happened at about 9:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 16, after a pipe carrying a nonhazardous material used to control humidity in the production environment burst, says Roz O’Hearn, corporate and brand affairs director for Nestle.
The chemical, a lithium chloride salt solution is a dessicant — it removes humidity from the environment. It is a non-hazardous, odorless solution and its only role is to control the production environment humidity, which is an important factor in pressed sugar candy production. The dessicant has no contact with the actual candy itself, O’Hearn says.
The spill was originally contained, but a few hours after it happened, employees were feeling nauseous and having trouble breathing, so Nestle called 911.
Deputy Fire Chief John Radzinski says the Itasca Fire Department was called to the scene at about 1:20 a.m. June 17.
“Five gallons of product leaked out of a pipe that was broken, and we were called out to the scene after some employees started feeling nauseous and vomiting,” he says. “It was a very mild chemical, but it did have the possibility of creating respiratory issues.”
Since so many people were transported to local hospitals, Radzinski says they had to call in other fire departments to help transport them.
“We transported those who needed to be transported, [and had] a team of firefighters investigate the spill to confirm that there were no other active leaks,” he explains.
All 11 of the employees that were sent to the hospital after the spill were released by around 8 a.m. Friday morning, O’Hearn says.
“Because of the disruption, we suspended our first shift operations in Itasca on Friday, June 17, but resumed normal operations with our second shift that same day,” she adds.