HazMat Response for Freon Gas Leak at Jewel-Osco on Biesterfield, Elk Grove Village


Elk Grove Village police and firefighter/paramedics responded about 8:53 a.m. Monday for a HazMat incident at the Jewel-Osco, 20 Biesterfield Road. Emergency responders received a report of a Freon leak incident at the rear of the store. Three people reported feeling dizzy. The first firefighters on the scene reported a vapor cloud inside the store, and the store was immediately evacuated. The leak was reported stopped by 9:12 a.m. Monday, but may have been stopped as early as 9:05 a.m.

The hazard was resolved and the building was ventilated by 9:34 a.m. Monday.

A total of nine people were assessed by paramedics from three Elk Grove Village rescue ambulances with eight people refusing further medical attention.

People were allowed to return inside the store at about 9:42 a.m. Monday.

Freon is the DuPont trade name for hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), which contain carbon, hydrogen, fluorine, and chlorine. The chemical is used as a refrigerant and as a solvent. They are low in toxicity and flammability.

High concentrations in the air may cause a tingling sensation, humming in the ears, slurred speech and apprehension. Overexposure of concentrations of 11% or more may cause dizziness, loss of concentration, central nervous system depression, amnesia and/or cardiac arrhythmia (heart rate variability, bradycardia or slow heart rate, and atrioventricular block), according to the International Programme on Chemical Safety (INCHEM). One occupational exposure study detected no increase in deaths or tumor deaths.

Vapors can displace air, and the resulting lowered oxygen levels can cause asphyxiation in confined spaces. Normal occupational exposure is rated at 0.07% and does not pose any serious health risks.

Direct contact with FREON on the skin can cause freezing ‘burns’.

CFCs or chlorofluorocarbon or known environmentally for their role in ozone depletion, which can result in increased UV radiation — a concern for the risk of increase of skin cancer and ocular cortical cataracts.

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