EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. – One of two Missouri hospital emergency rooms reopened Sunday, a day after being shut down under quarantine when eight people sickened by a dangerous chemical's release sought treatment.
Price McCarty, an FBI spokesman in Springfield, Ill., said the chemical release Saturday at the Ro-Corp. plant caused no deaths, countering a statement earlier Sunday by an East St. Louis' city official that two people had died.
The chemical, which authorities said was likely the highly toxic material nitroaniline, was released when a barrel was dropped at the Ro-Corp. plant.
The eight people sickened — identified by the FBI as mostly Ro-Corp. workers — remained hospitalized Sunday.
Three were in good condition at SSM DePaul Health Center in Missouri's St. Louis County. The hospital reopened its emergency department Sunday afternoon after quarantining it the previous night, spokeswoman Jamie Newell said.
Three others were in satisfactory condition at St. Anthony's Medical Center. Most of the hospital's emergency department was reopened Sunday following decontamination, the hospital said on its Web site.
One of those sickened was released from St. Louis' Barnes-Jewish Hospital late Sunday, a spokeswoman said. Another was listed in serious condition in the intensive care unit at Saint Louis University Hospital.
Earlier Sunday, East St. Louis city manager Robert Betts said two people had died. He later told a newspaper that he couldn't confirm the deaths. Betts did not immediately respond to repeated calls made to his office and cell phone Sunday by The Associated Press.
Nitroaniline is commonly used in the synthesis of dyes, antioxidants, pharmaceuticals, gasoline, poultry medicines, and as a corrosion inhibitor. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Web site says it can cause vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions, respiratory arrest and other symptoms and ailments.
McCarty said the FBI initially was called in to pinpoint whether there was anything criminal or terrorism-related about the chemical release, but agents found neither.
Steve Robins, president of the G.S. Robins & Co., the parent company Ro-Corp Inc., told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that while "we really don't know what happened" at Ro-Corp., the problem was contained by Sunday.
Robins said the workers took showers either at the site or home before going to hospitals.
Messages left by the AP at Robins' home were not immediately returned.
A company Web site says Ro-Corp is a packaging/repackaging facility for dry materials.