Hometown plant increases use of hazardous chemical
That likely means local residents will be exposed to increased air emissions of hydrogen fluoride, a highly toxic chemical formed when tungsten hexafluoride comes into contact with water.
In 2004, Air Products' Hometown plant reported emitting to the air 5,382 pounds of hydrogen fluoride, according to EPA's Toxic Release Inventory database. In 1988, the first year for which TRI data is available, it released 11,026 pounds of the chemical to the air. Emissions then dropped dramatically, averaging about 150 pounds a year from 1989 to 1996; climbed to 500 pounds a year from 1997 through 1999; and then increased sharply to 1,577 pounds in 2000, 4,126 in 2001 and 5,352 in both 2002 and 2003. It released a total of 16,408 pounds of hydrogen fluoride over the 15-year period.
Hydrogen fluoride inhalation poses a number of serious health risks, according to the EPA's air toxics Web site:
# Chronic inhalation exposure of humans to hydrogen fluoride has resulted in irritation and congestion of the nose, throat, and bronchi at low levels.
# Increased bone density has been reported among workers chronically exposed to fluorides (including hydrogen fluoride) via inhalation.
# Damage to the liver, kidneys, and lungs has been observed in animals chronically exposed to hydrogen fluoride by inhalation.