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Hazardous fumes sicken 3 city refuse collectors

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Fumes from muriatic acid, a highly corrosive material used generally for cleaning, sent three city refuse workers to the hospital this morning after they picked up a leaking container left with curbside trash in Nuuanu.

Bryan Cheplic, spokesman for the city Emergency Services Department, said paramedics took the men to the hospital in stable condition. One worker is in his 30s, one in his 40s and one in his 50s. All three city refuse workers complained of nausea, dry mouth and difficulty breathing.

Capt. Gary Lum, city fire department spokesman, said an investigation by department’s hazard materials team traced the cause to a container of muriatic acid that was picked up earlier in the morning at a Ragsdale Place address. The refuse crew was overcome by fumes, stopped their truck at Pali Highway and South School Street and called for help at 8:26 a.m.

Lum said the city will hire a contractor to handle and dispose of the corrosive acid.

Muriatic acid is an aqueous solution of hydrogen chloride gas. It is used, among other things, to clean, treat and galvanize metal, tan leather, and in the refining and manufacturing of wide variety of products. When it comes into contact with water, it forms hydrochloric acid. Both the muriatic acid and hydrochloric acid are corrosive.

The city’s Department of Environmental Services said disposal of muriatic acid requires special handling at a drop-off place, scheduled every two months. The next disposal day will be Dec. 18. Call 768-3201 to schedule a drop-off time.

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