According to the Coast Guard, a tank barge exploded on the Mississippi River this week, leaving two people with injuries. The explosion occurred on Saturday afternoon. Workers were loading benzene onto the barge at the LBC Tank terminal in Louisiana when it exploded. There is no information about the kind of injuries the workers suffered.

At this point in time, there is no indication that the waters of the Mississippi River have been polluted as a result of this explosion. Coast Guard investigators are probing the incident.

Benzene is a colorless, sweet smelling liquid that is also a known carcinogenic. The risks to maritime workers from exposure to benzene have been well documented. Benzene exposure has been linked to a number of medical conditions, most prominently several types of blood cancers and anemia. High levels of benzene exposure can also lead to lung and kidney failure, and other conditions.

Benzene is also an extremely flammable liquid, and precautions must be taken while loading, unloading or transporting benzene. Both vapors and liquids may be easily ignited. A static discharge can ignite benzene vapors. These hazards are even greater in a confined space, like a vessel. Care must be taken to avoid static charges, and sparks while handling benzene. These toxic chemicals must also not be exposed to high heat, hot surfaces or open flames. Workers must refrain from smoking while handling benzene. Benzene containers must be placed in well ventilated areas, away from inflammable materials. Containers used for the storage of benzene must be appropriate for handling flammable liquids and gases.

The maritime lawyers at Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P., Accident & Injury Lawyers  represent injured victims of barge accidents on inland waterways and riverways across the United States and worldwide.