The chemical that sent eight employees of an aerospace firm to the hospital Monday night was identified by fire officials Wednesday as cadmium, a naturally occurring heavy metal similar to zinc and mercury.
Cadmium is commonly used in the aircraft industry to reduce corrosion on steel components.
On Monday night, eight people were taken to the hospital after they — and 32 others — were exposed to cadmium as an airborne chemical irritant at an industrial company in Castaic.
The incident happened at TA Aerospace, a division of Esterline, on Franklin Parkway near Braxton Avenue, in Castaic. A company official said Wednesday that they still had not determined how the employees were exposed to the chemical. A state investigation into the incident is expected to take six months.
At least 40 people were exposed, and 31 of those were TA Aerospace employees.
Inspector Joey Marron of the Los Angeles County Fire Department said Wednesday that fire officials had identified Monday’s irritant as cadmium.
“They use it to make rubber for the aerospace industry,” he said.
Marron said he did not have an update on the medical condition of those taken by ambulance to the hospital Monday, only to say that there were no fatalities.
“We are actively investigating,” Michelle DeGrand, spokeswoman for TA Aerospace and Esterline, said Wednesday from Washington, D.C.
“As we’re still investigating, we don’t have confirmation on what may have caused the employees to report illness.
“This is an engineered materials manufacturing facility where we create formulas for harsh-environment elastomer products that can require several chemical components in the manufacturing process,” she said.
“Our top priority is ensuring the safety of our teams, so we are working to understand the root cause and ensure we have enhanced preventive measures in place going forward,” Degrand said.
Cadmium is commonly associated with rechargeable batteries. Its primary use is in the manufacturing of NiCd rechargeable batteries.
A common industrial use of cadmium is in electroplating — the process of coating the surface of a conducting material with a metal.
According to the World Health Organization, cadmium exerts toxic effects on the kidney, the skeletal and the respiratory systems, and is classified as a human carcinogen.
The organization’s website describes cadmium as “generally present in the environment at low levels. However, human activity has greatly increased those levels.
“Cadmium can travel long distances from the source of emission by atmospheric transfer. …Human exposure occurs mainly from consumption of contaminated food, active and passive inhalation of tobacco smoke, and inhalation by workers in the nonferrous metal industry.”
In a 2007 report prepared by the Central Intelligence Committee, cadmium was being used in the aircraft industry to reduce corrosion of steel components.
As well, the International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified cadmium and cadmium compounds as carcinogenic to humans, meaning the agency found sufficient evidence for their carcinogenicity in humans.
Shortly before 11:30 p.m. on Monday, paramedics were dispatched to the 28000 block of Franklin Parkway for reports of a hazardous materials incident, Fire Department spokesman Marvin Lim said.
When paramedics arrived at the scene at 10:54 p.m., they requested several more ambulances for patients at the site.
“This was reported as a smoke cloud or hazardous material,” Lim said Tuesday.
Paramedics, firefighters and hazmat crews remained at the scene overnight, clearing at 9:20 a.m. on Tuesday.
Deputies with the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station assisted about 40 people in the evacuation of the industrial site, noting patients were taken to either Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital or Providence Holy Cross Medical Center.
Shortly after 1 a.m., officials with the California Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Occupational Safety and Health, were notified of the incident, CAL OSHA spokesman Frank Polizzi said Tuesday.
“We were notified of a chemical exposure and the hospitalization of eight employees,” he said.
Reached Wednesday, Polizzi said CAL OSHA officials had not yet been informed as to what the chemical was that resulted in eight people being hospitalized.
The CAL OSHA investigation is ongoing with results expected in about six months, Polizzi said.