BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - The northbound lane of I-59/20 is still closed after a chemical spill closed a stretch of the highway Thursday afternoon.
And now we’re learning more about that chemical.
UAB Public Health Specialist, Dr. Lisa McCormick said the vapors from sodium hydrosulfide can be toxic and irritating to your respiratory system and can cause burns to your skin and eyes.
About 5,000 gallons of the powder-to-liquid chemical spilled onto the highway after an 18-wheeler overturned.
The chemical is often used in agriculture and textiles as a bleaching agent.
First responders isolated the spill 150 feet in all directions, and applied sand to absorb the chemical.
According to Birmingham Fire & Rescue Battalion Chief, Jackie Hicks, the spill has been difficult to clean up because it is corrosive and toxic.
But Dr. McCormick said sodium hydrosulfide is more of a danger to clean-up crews, than the road itself.
“It can be dangerous, if it’s not handled correctly,” Dr. McCormick explained.
“Luckily here in Jefferson County, and within the city of Birmingham, we have hazardous material emergency response teams that are able to deal with these types of events pretty quickly, so they’re able to minimize the risk to the general public,” Dr. McCormick said.
She added that the hazmat suits and other PPE crews are using should keep them safe as they continue to clean up the spill.
Meanwhile, the southbound lane of I-59/20 is opened, but AL-DOT said it doesn’t anticipate that the highway will be completely open by rush hour and could remain closed until Saturday.