UPDATE: Ammonia-Related Injuries Reach 23 in Tyson Foods Leak

UPDATE: Thursday 12/12/2014, 8:35 a.m.

A total of 25 Tyson Foods employees went to hospitals on Wednesday afternoon were all discharged last night, according to spokeswomen at Mercy Hospital and Northwest Medical Health System. All but one were cleared for work today.

The ammonia leak that sent 10 Tyson Foods employees to the hospital yesterday has affected more than first believed.

According to NWA Media, 23 employees were injured and approximately 250 were evacuated after the leak occurred at 3:30 p.m. yesterday, at the Tyson Chick N Quick plant, located at 400 West Olrich Street in Rogers.

One employee was unconscious when the fire department arrived, and though nobody was critically injured, those seeking treatment complained of respiratory problems.

Chemical exposure to ammonia can have side effects such as:

  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Irritation to eyes and nose
  • Other respiratory issues

In high concentrations, exposure to ammonia can cause lung damage and even death.

The Tyson Chick N Quick uses ammonia as a cooling agent.

The fire department was called when one employee went unconscious, however, Fire Chief Tom Jenkins says that 16 people began complaining of ammonia exposure symptoms in the hours following the leak. By 5:30 p.m., this number climbed to 23.

Employees presenting ammonia-related injuries were taken to Mercy Hospital and Northwest Medical Center-Bentonville, according to Jenkins.

Fire department spokesman Dennis Thurman said that the leak was minor and that the plant employees did all they could to contain the situation.

The public was not in danger and the surrounding neighborhood was not asked to evacuate.

The plant was partially evacuated, with approximately 250 employees asked to leave the plant. Those who were evacuated stood by watching firefighter crews at work.

According to Tyson Foods spokesman Worth Sparkman, the leak was an “ammonia smell” and that no ammonia was actually detected in the plant.

“There were some team members who asked to see a doctor, and they went to the hospital. We’re still gathering details, but initial readings inside the plant indicate that ammonia was not detected in the environment,” he said.

The Fire Department will release a full report today.