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January 21, 2011
Fumes at LA plant leave 1 dead, 2 serious
The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES — Men cleaning a blood storage tank at a biotechnology plant were overcome by toxic fumes early Friday, killing one and leaving the others in critical condition, authorities said.
Firefighters called to the Baxter International Inc. plant in Atwater Village shortly before 4 a.m. found a man lying near a large cylindrical tank. He wasn't breathing and had no pulse, but cardiopulmonary resuscitation restored his heartbeat, Fire Department spokesman Brian Humphrey said.
Two other men were pulled unconscious from the 4-foot-tall, 5-foot-wide tank, Humphrey said. They apparently climbed in through a 2-foot-diameter opening in the top, he said.
All three men were taken to hospitals in critical condition and one later died, Humphrey said. He did not immediately know whether it was the man who had been revived.
The men were cleaning the tank, which is used to store blood, with a detergent when they were overcome by fumes from ethanol that is used to separate the blood plasma, fire Capt. Jaime Moore told KTLA-TV.
The worker who was found outside the tank had called 911 and tried to rescue his co-workers before he was overcome, Moore told the Los Angeles Times.
Humphrey said he could not confirm those details but he said firefighters did detect the presence of ethanol. A hazardous material team was sent to the scene, he said.
Investigators from the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, known as Cal-OSHA, were sent to determine whether the plant was complying with health and safety laws, Humphrey said.
A call to a Baxter spokeswoman seeking comment was not immediately returned.
Baxter, based in Deerfield, Ill., is a global bioscience corporation that makes everything from vaccines to dialysis materials. Its plasma-derived products include clotting factor for hemophiliacs and treatments for immune system deficiencies, burns and shock, according to its website.
The Atwater Village plant generally has a good safety record, with only a single $185 fine for a minor violation in 2005, said Krisann Chasarik, a spokeswoman for Cal-OSHA.
Two other Baxter-owned facilities in California did report injury accidents in the past decade, however. Chasarik said one occurred in 2005 at a plant in Thousand Oaks, but she did not have details.
In 2002, a woman was scalded at a laboratory in Heyward, Calif., when a hose on top of a large tank she was cleaning came loose and splashed her with hot water. She was treated at a hospital, Chasarik said.