Firefighters Activate HazMat Response Following Chemical Odor at Condo on Cleveland Ave, Arlington Heights
Police, firefighters and paramedics from Arlington Heights responded about 5:34 p.m. Monday, August 15, 2022 to a report of a strong chemical odor on the third floor of a condo apartment building at 505 South Cleveland Avenue Arlington Heights.
Upon arrival firefighters detected a strong odor and investigated the interior of the building. Firefighters donned self-contained breathing apparatus, and activated a HazMat Level 1 response at 5:46 p.m.
Residents were immediately evacuated from the building, and a fire alarm pull station was activated as part of the process to alert people to evacuate the building.
Firefighters located a residential unit on the third floor where a floor finishing product had been used. Firefighters were attempting to identify the exact product by searching for any discarded container.
Residents at the scene said the chemical had a fruity odor and caused their eyes to burn. Many residents in the building were far enough from the source that they did not smell anything, even though they were evacuated.
Firefighters opened doors and windows, and used fans to ventilate the interior of the 3-story condominium building. Firefighters were also considering a plan to seal the source residential unit by covering the door with Visqueen Plastic Sheeting and duct tape.
Arlington Heights police officers blocked Cleveland Avenue near the scene, and also blocked Park Street east of Roosevelt Avenue while firefighters worked on the hazmat operation. Most of the operations were completed by about 7:00 p.m. and Arlington Heights police officers re-opened Cleveland Avenue just after 7:00 p.m.
If the product was polyurethane, which is a common product used for floor finishing, there are probably two issues that concerned firefighters : 1) flammability and 2) exposure risks affecting health.
In high concentration of vapors, a spark from a light, or ignition from a pilot light can cause vapors to ignite. Proper ventilation during application and the drying phase is necessary to prevent the risk of fire or even explosion of vapors.
Ingredients in floor finishing products can cause irritation to tissues, which can cause eye irritation; throat, airway and lung irritation; coughing; shortness of breath; headache; dizziness; nausea; and vomiting.
According to Underwriters Laboratories (UL), many wood finishes on the market release hazardous chemicals into the air including known carcinogens and reproductive toxins. Long-term, repeated exposures to harmful chemicals are cause for concern regarding risk of cancer, reproductive toxicity and damage to the liver, kidney and central nervous system. Some common potentially harmful hazardous chemicals associated with floor finishing are isocyanates and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).
The need to remedy the potential risks associated with the unknown floor finishing chemical on Cleveland Avenue prompted the hazmat response. Most suburban fire departments carry a Multi-Gas detector monitor. Some are capable of detecting and measuring methane, oxygen, hydrogen sulfide, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, and hydrogen cyanide. These monitors are used in hazmat situations, and are also used inside buildings after a structure fire to determine the level of harmful chemicals in the air after a fire. The portable detectors can determine when the interior is safe for human occupation for normal breathing conditions.
The information in this article is an early report published before any summary information was confirmed or released by police or fire authorities.
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