TWENTY-THREE workers had to be taken to hospital after a chemical spillage at a factory.
The employees were affected by fumes after the denatonium benzoate leak at the Palletways plant in Livingston yesterday.
Staff were taken to St John’s Hospital complaining of throat irritation and breathlessness at around 8.10am.
The extremely bitter substance is used to make liquids such as anti-freeze inedible to humans or animals.
Fire crews were called to the scene to help with the evacuation while paramedics transported personnel to hospital.
Around 20 firefighters wearing chemical suits used absorbent chemicals to clear up the spill.
Most of the workers were discharged from hospital and returned to work.
A spokeswoman for Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue said a container filled with the chemical was punctured while being moved by a forklift truck, and added: “The casualties were complaining of throat irritation and mild breathlessness.
“Firefighters using breathing apparatus and wearing gas-tight chemical suits dealt with the spillage.
“A total of six fire and specialist appliances were sent out to the scene, with the incident concluded just after 10am.”
Freight distributor Palletways said the depot was closed for a short time while the spillage was dealt with.
Spokesman Chris Lawrence said: “Following the incident, in line with our health and safety procedures, we closed down the depot operation, whilst seeking guidance on dealing with the substance.
“The chemical was found to be a detergent concentrate, denatonium benzoate, which is non-hazardous and classified as non-dangerous goods. It was subsequently dampened and swept up as per the guidelines for dealing with the substance.”
Denatonium benzoate, known as Bitrex, is colourless and odourless and was discovered in Edinburgh in the 1950s.
It is added to anti-freeze, animal repellents, rat poison, liquid soaps, shampoos, paints and varnish, nail polish remover and nail-biting prevention products.
Dr Alison McCallum, director of public health at NHS Lothian said: “A total of 23 people were identified as having minor symptoms and they were assessed and treated in the accident and emergency department at St John’s Hospital.”
A spokeswoman for the Health and Safety Executive said an inspector had visited the site following the accident and found the incident was dealt with appropriately. No further action has been proposed.