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Five treated in hospital following chemical gas leak at Apple data centre

Wed 3 Jun 2015

A chlorine gas leak at an Apple data centre in North Carolina has hospitalised five workers.

The Catawba emergency services received an alert call at 2pm local time from the Apple site based on Startown Road in Maiden. Footage was captured at the scene of the building being evacuated, people being treated by medical crews and supplied with oxygen masks.

Initially authorities said that there had been two unidentified chemicals involved in the leak, later confirming that it had been chlorine gas.

When cooled chlorine can be stored as a liquid, but turns to gas if exposed to air. If breathed in by humans the chemical can be damaging to the respiratory system, dissolving the mucous membrane causing fluid to build up in the lungs which can lead to suffocation by drowning. The gas has been used in large quantities in chemical warfare but even a small exposure to chlorine gas can cause shortness of breath.

An investigation has revealed that the noxious chemical leak was given off from on-site water-cooling equipment used to cool the centre’s servers.

The five injured workers were treated at the nearby Catawba Valley Medical Center and were all discharged shortly after. Neither the medical centre nor Apple have provided further details on the incident.

The Maiden data centre is the tech giant’s biggest facility on the East Coast, and at 505,000 sq.ft it is one pf the largest data centres in the world. Last year Apple announced that it would be investing over $1bn in the site over the next decade, with plans to establish a neighbouring centre on the same road.

The data centre has been pinned by Apple as a leader in green technology. The facility is powered by solar energy from a 200-acre solar farm installed on the same site. It was the first data centre of its size to be awarded the green LEED Platinum certification.

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