Sunday, 22 March 2015

Three people hospitalized following titanium tetrachloride leak in Quebec.

Three people required hospital treatment and three factories and about fifteen homes were evacuated following an incident in which about a ton of the chemical titanium tetrachloride was spilled at a factory in Varennes, Quebec, on Saturday 21 March 2015. The incident occurred at about 10.00 am local time at the Kronos owned Varennes Plant, and resulted in the production of a large cloud of toxic gas as the chemical reacted with the atmosphere. People were allowed to return to their homes early on Sunday, after the majority of the spilled chemical was transfered to a secure area, though a 400 m exclusion zone around the site is still in place, and nearby roads remain closed.

Toxic fumes issuing from the Kronos Varennes Plant on Saturday 21 March 2015. TVA News.

Titanium tetrachloride is an intermediate product in the production of titanium metal and titanium dioxide. It is produced by passing chlorine gas over crushed titanium ores at high temperatures (typically in excess of 900°C). It can then be reacted with magnesium to produce pure titanium or converted to titanium dioxide by a process of hydrolysis. However it needs to be kept out of contact with the atmosphere, as it will react with any humidity in the atmosphere forming clouds of hydrochloric acid, which appears to have been the case at the Varennes Plant, although the speed at which this reaction occurs is largely governed by temperature, so the scale of the incident may have been minimized by the low temperatures prevalent in the area at the moment.

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