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Truck crash causes hazardous spill in Arizona, forces evacuation

The deadly crash of a commercial tanker truck caused hazardous material to leak onto Interstate 10 outside Tucson, Arizona, U.S., on Tuesday, shutting down the key highway through the state and forcing evacuations near the accident.

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Residents within a half mile (800 m) were ordered to leave and those within a mile (1.6 km) were told to shelter in place for several hours after liquid nitric acid was determined to be leaking from the tanker, the Arizona Department of Public Safety said.

The Tuesday afternoon accident happened on a stretch southeast of downtown Tucson.

The shelter-in-place order was lifted Tuesday night but “those who have already been evacuated will remain evacuated,” the agency said.

#Breaking: Just in – A truck carrying a very lethal chemical has crashed and landed on it's side releasing gas in Pima County, #Tuscon in #Arizona.

— Sotiri Dimpinoudis (@sotiridi) February 15, 2023

The driver of the truck was killed, the department said, but few other details were released.

The agency warned motorists in the Tucson area should anticipate impacts on their Wednesday morning commute in and around I-10.

“This will be an extended closure,” it said in a tweet Tuesday evening.

Nitric acid is used to make ammonium nitrate for fertilizers and in the manufacture of plastics and dyes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says nitric acid is a highly corrosive, colorless liquid with yellow or red fumes and can cause an acrid smell.

It says exposure to nitric acid can irritate the eyes, skin, and mucous membranes. Depending on the dosage, it also can also cause delayed pulmonary edema, pneumonitis, bronchitis, and dental erosion.

Toxic chemical safety in U.S.

The hazardous spillage comes in the same week that it was revealed that the freight train derailment in East Palestine in Ohio on February 3 was carrying a lot more toxic chemicals than first reported.

As well as vinyl chloride, other toxins, like phosgene and hydrogen chloride, were emitted during a controlled detonation and burn, prompting officials to issue mandatory evacuation orders in a one-mile radius of the crash site.

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