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Firefighters spray water on a container of the chemical that farmers use for soil after anhydrous ammonia leaked.
Source: AP

A leak in a container holding hazardous chemicals created a massive toxic chemical spill in Beach Park, IL, early Thursday that sent 37 people to the hospital, with seven listed in critical condition, officials said.

A preliminary investigation found two separate two-ton containers, which held anhydrous ammonia, were being towed by a tractor on Green Bay Road in Beach Park, a village north of Chicago, said Sgt. Christopher Covelli of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office. The cause of the leak has not been released.

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Anhydrous ammonia, a colorless gas with pungent fumes, can cause unconsciousness and even death when inhaled. The chemical is commonly used by farmers as an agricultural fertilizer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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The spill created a toxic plume of the chemical, Covelli said.

Those transported to hospitals had inhalation issues, the Lake County Sheriff’s Office said on its Twitter account. While some have been released, seven were in critical condition, including a firefighter, Covelli said.

A sheriff’s sergeant, sheriff’s deputy, a Zion Police officer and 11 firefighters who responded to the scene and breathed in the fumes are among those in the hospital, the Lake County Sheriff’s Office said.

The leak was contained within a few hours, said Mike Gallo of the Lake Forest Fire Department. The leaking tank was empty. Officials are monitoring the plume and advised anyone within a one-mile radius of the spill to stay inside with their windows closed and keep air conditioning and heaters off.

The spill also caused several schools in Beach Park to close for the day, police said.

The shelter-in-place request for Beach Park has been lifted, the Lake County Sheriff’s Office said on Twitter on Thursday morning. Door-to-door checks were performed to make sure no one was in medical distress in their homes, said the sheriff’s office.

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