This is ethylene oxide, the chemical behind the explosion

The explosion in a Tarragona chemical plant It has chemical origin. The affected factory produces ethylene oxide, a highly flammable and very toxic substance that is commonly used to make detergents and fertilizers.

IQOXE, the company affected by the explosion, which has been seen and heard since many kilometers around, is the largest manufacturer of ethylene oxide in Europe and the only producer of this substance in the Iberian Peninsula.

This gas is stored at a very low temperature -between 5 and 0 degrees Celsius- and at low pressure. It is a chemical very soluble in water, so its proximity to the port of Tarragona could be a serious complication.

Ethylene oxide also has serious effects on the human body. Breathing it at low levels can cause irritation of eyes, skin and respiratory tract. It can cause headache, nausea, vomiting, memory loss or numbness. Symptoms range from cough to vomiting. In Skin contact, The gas can cause skin redness or burning sensation. It can also cause blurred vision.

Very long time exposure may be related to the occurrence of some cancers, such as lymphoma or leukemia. But not in sporadic exhibitions like the one that Tarragona is suffering.

IQOXE, as reflected on its website, «It is integrated with other companies of the petrochemical polygon, through a pipe network. Most of the raw materials are received in this way, just as much of the manufactured ethylene oxide is sent.

"About half of the ethylene oxide manufactured is sold as such to customers or used in the manufacture of PEGs, ethoxylates or polyols in derivative plants in IQOXE. The rest of ethylene oxide transforms to glycols in IQOXE » The factory itself explains.

Explosion in Tarragona

In the afternoon of Tuesday, a large explosion has been registered in a petrochemical factory near the port of Tarragona, which has shaken the Catalan town. This explosion has left, for the moment, several injured, one of them by cuts in the face. The explosion has happened at the petrochemical plant of The Canonja, as confirmed by firefighters.

Some information suggests that some of these injured would have received serious damage. The explosion was heard from many points both Tarragona and the outskirts of the town.

In the factory there are chemical products with which it is not advisable to get in touch although at the moment the firefighters they are not evacuating the area but they recommend that neighbors who live nearby be confined preventively.